KOLKATA: A total of 53 Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel have utilised their 14-day quarantine period in West Bengal's Darjeeling to get trained in high-altitude survival techniques and rescue operations at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in the hill town, an official of the establishment said on Tuesday. HMI Principal, Group Captain Jai Kishan, said the institute decided to make the quarantine time useful for the air warriors, who came in batches of 10-12 after their return from holidays, as just remaining locked inside rooms could have caused mental stress to them amid the pandemic situation.

"Social distancing norms were maintained throughout the training programme held recently inside the campus of the premier mountaineering institute run jointly by the Centre and the West Bengal government," Group Captain Kishan told from Darjeeling.

Personnel at the Air Force Station in West Bengal's Kurseong, after their return from holidays, needed to go for mandatory quarantine, but there was a lack of space at the establishment owing to some coronavirus cases at the station.

The Air Force station commander then approached the HMI for a quarantine facility and the institute authorities agreed to the proposal.

The institute also chalked out some activities for the airmen to keep them occupied during the quarantine period, Group Captain Kishan, an HMI alumnus who had joined the IAF in 1996, said.

"We used to start every morning with physical exercises and yoga. During the day, we used to conduct training on various survival techniques in the mountains," he said.

They were also trained on survival tactics at altitudes above 10,000 feet, said the HMI principal, a recipient of the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award -- the highest national recognition for outstanding achievements in the field of adventure on land, sea and air.

"We decided to hold these activities to keep them safe and mentally healthy," he said.

"They have completed their quarantine and returned to the Air Force station in Kurseong," he added.