"Braving adverse weather, IAF helicopters from Leh rescued 21 British Nationals and 1 French national on August 6 and 7 in a challenging casualty evacuation from high altitude in Ladakh," Defence spokesman at Army's Northern Command Col S D Goswami said today.

After five days of continuous downpour, all major rivers, Indus, Nubra, Shyok and their tributaries in Ladakh region, were flowing above danger mark, he added. Road and telephone communications were cut off. The Air Force Station in Leh received an SOS to rescue a group of British citizens who were stranded in the Markha Valley with some members suffering from asthma, Goswami cited.

'Siachen Pioneers', the premier IAF helicopter unit at Leh, was pressed into service, he added. "Marginal weather and time of the day necessitated a search and rescue to be launched immediately. Two aircraft were launched, led by Commanding Officer Wing commander BS Sehrawat with Flight Lieutenant Cirag as formation leader, and Wing Commander KS Negi with Squadron Leader V Chauhan as his number two," the official stated.

The pilots located the trekkers close to Thinlespa village on the bank of the river, the trekkers had made a temporary 'SOS' sign near the rivulet, he said, adding this distress signal on ground was instrumental in correctly identifying the location.

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