Kullu (Himachal Pradesh), Aug 31: Holding on to the belief that his son is alive, an anxious father has hired a private rescue team but wants Indian authorities to extensively search for the 24-year-old Israeli-American backpacker who went missing July 21.
Amichai, who also served in the Israeli army for three years, went missing while trekking in Himachal Pradesh's picturesque Parbati valley in Kullu district, about 300 km from the state capital Shimla, said his father Jacob Shtainmetz.
Amichai had gone for trekking along with his friend but took a different route on the way back - and hasn't been seen since.
"We want extensive search of the entire trek (that my son had taken) by Indian authorities... I believe he is still alive and trapped in high mountain passes. Unless extensive search is carried out, it's difficult for him to return safely," Shtainmetz said.
"Our own efforts have borne no fruit so far."
The private rescue team he has hired with the help of the Israeli embassy has been on the job since Amichai's disappearance.
"He is very sturdy and well built. He can survive without having food for days together even in extreme conditions," the father, who has announced a reward of Rs.100,000 for anyone giving clues about his missing son, said.
According to Superintendent of Police (Kullu) K.K. Indoria: "We are assisting the missing tourist's father and his rescue team comprising Israeli and American mountaineers to carry out search operations."
"We have also deployed a team of local trekkers. They are now searching river beds, water channels and wooded areas en route the trek that Amichai had taken to find out any of his belongings. He might have slipped and fallen down in the mountainous terrain," Indoria told IANS.
"The US and Israel embassies in Delhi are in regular contact with the district administration regarding the progress in search operations. Officials of the US embassy also visited the area last week and returned to Delhi as they failed to find any clues about his whereabouts," he disclosed.
He said police had been advising foreign tourists to hire the services of local guides, move in groups and carry satellite or mobile phone so rescue teams could be sent in cases of emergencies.
The scenic Kullu valley attracts thousands of foreigners for a range of activities like mountaineering, backpacking, skiing, trekking, rafting, kayaking and paragliding.
In the last 15 years, more than 25 foreigners have gone missing from the valley. A few were later found to be involved in drug trafficking.