Over 200 members of the Army serving in Kandy were involved in the operation to rescue 455 students of the Sri Jayawardenapura and Jaffna universities who went missing in the Hantana mountains in Peradeniya.
Army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said that all the students who went missing yesterday were rescued were brought to safety at daybreak today.
He said that 386 undergraduates and several lecturers of the Sri Jayawardenapura University joined by 65 undergraduates and 4 lecturers of the Vavuniya Faculty of University of Jaffna as part of their annual picnic last morning, had commenced trekking the popular Hantana mountain range after entering from the Peradeniya University side.
However inclement weather by last afteroon had worsened with torrential rains, covering the whole of the area with a pall of thick mist, compelling stranded picnickers to go in all directions, away from one another as darkness was enveloping the mountains.
As excitment, tension and sheer desperation began to grow every second with no assistance forthcoming in sight, one of the stranded lecturers in the group had reportedly alerted the Kandy Police on their plight over a mobile phone and pleaded for emergency assistance.
Police in turn immediately contacted the Kandy 11 Division Headquarters of the Army for action since the Army has the potential for such rescue operations at short notice and in times of national disasters, etc.
More than 200 officers and soldiers of 2 Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment (SLSR), 20 Gajaba Regiment (GR) and Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (SLEME) of the Training School in Gannoruwa launched the rescue operations by last evening.
Hours after the launch of the operation the army traced the whereabouts of 71 missing students at first, of whom 7 were found critically ill. They were admitted to the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital.
By 4.30 a.m. today the troops completed the mammoth rescue operation after saving all the 455 missing students, including four lecturers and 30 student monks who were on the expedition, organized jointly by University of Jaffna and University of Peradeniya.
The army spokesman said that 46 among the stranded who were in poor health were rushed to the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital for medical treatment.