Largest res­cue and re­lief op­er­a­tions by the In­dian armed forces


It is con­sid­ered as the one of the largest res­cue op­er­a­tions of the In­dian armed forces, evac­u­at­ing civil­ians af­fected by the floods in Ut­tarak­hand and Hi­machal Pradesh which has claimed thou­sands of lives.

The In­dian Air Force launched ‘Op­er­a­tion Ra­hat’ while the In­dian Army named ‘Op­er­a­tion Surya Hope’ to mas­sive res­cue and re­lief op­er­a­tions in the hill states of Ut­tarak­hand and Hi­machal Pradesh where thou­sands of pil­grims have been stranded in dif­fi­cult ter­rain and in hos­tile weather con­di­tions.

Op­er­a­tion Ra­hat

Since June 17, the IAF has air­lifted more than 20,000 peo­ple and drop­ping tonnes of re­lief ma­te­rial and equip­ment. On June 16, fol­low­ing flash floods due to heavy rains, the state gov­ern­ments sought as­sis­tance from the IAF. The Western Air Com­mand (WAC) promptly re­sponded to the re­quests and un­der­took si­mul­ta­ne­ous task in the sec­tors of Ya­mu­na­gar, Kedar­nath-Badri­nath axis, Ru­draprayag val­ley and the Kar­cham-Puh axis.

The Sar­sawa Air Force Sta­tion was made the hub with helicopters con­ver­ing from Bhatinda and Hin­don. Sev­eral medium lift helicopters in­clud­ing the newly in­ducted Mil Mi-17 V5 were pressed into ser­vice. On June 19, the IAF de­ployed 20 air­craft in­clud­ing 8 Mi-17 helicopters, 10 ad­vanced light helicopters (ALH), one An-32 trans­port air­craft and one HS-748 trans­port air­craft to carry out mis­sions, cov­er­ing Phata, Gup­takashi, Gau­rikund, Kedar­nath in Dehradun and Rampur, Kar- cham, Reck­ong Peo, Sangla in Hi­machal. An IAF C-130J flew over flood af­fected ar­eas in Dehradun–Ut­tarkashi, Kedar­nath and Joshi­math to iden­tify crit­i­cal ar­eas in the re­gion to help pri­ori­tise disas­ter re­lief op­er­a­tions and fa­cil­i­tate fur­ther res­cue mis­sions. Four ALH of the Sarang dis­play team were also de­ployed for re­lief op­er­a­tions.

The IAF has its air­craft on standby at Am­bala, Sar­sawa, Bareil­ley, Go­rakh­pur and Agra for prompt mis­sions to­wards pro­vid­ing con­tin­u­ous hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to the flood-af­fected re­gions and is in con­stant touch with the dis­trict au­thor­i­ties for co­or­di­nat­ing mis­sions.

C-130J pressed into ac­tion

The first C-130J air­craft landed at Dha­rasu (a land­ing ground only 1,300 me­tres long) in the early morn­ing to­day for the first time de­spite in­clement weather. On land­ing the air­craft de­fu­elled 8,000 litres of fuel into an empty bowser which was air­lifted from Sar­sawa by a Mi-26 he­li­copter. With the avail­abil­ity of ad­di­tional fuel now at Dha­rasu, the ex­trac­tion, evac­u­a­tion and res­cue op­er­a­tions have picked up pace and the avail­able helicopters are now able to make more num­ber of trips.

Apart from the car­ry­ing fuel to Dha­rasu, the first C-130J on its re­turn trip car­ried about 40 and the sec­ond about 100 in­jured and stranded pil­grims to the safer plains of Air Force Sta­tion Hin­don. An emer­gency med­i­cal cen­tre has been set up at Air Force Sta­tion Hin­don for the med­i­cal check-up of all the ar­riv­ing tourists for im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion.

The first two C-130J air­craft car­ried fuel to Dha­rasu while the third is car­ried a med­i­cal team of the IAF to at­tend to sick peo­ple at Dha­rasu it­self be­fore they are moved out to safer place.

Hav­ing paved the way for fixed-wing air­craft land­ing at Dha­rasu, the IAF pressed it’s An-32 air­craft also into ac­tion. Th­ese air­craft are car­ried disas­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment ve­hi­cle, some more avi­a­tion fuel, Su­dan pumps for re­fu­elling the helicopters and 4,200 kgs of bridg­ing equip­ment of BRO. The heavy-lift Mi-26 he­li­copter will also be air­lift­ing the heavy equip­ment of BRO to fa­cil­i­tate road re­pair and con­struc­tion work.

While the fuel bridg­ing has given im­pe­tus to res­cue op­er­a­tions, in­creased fly­ing ac­tiv­ity in the nar­row val­leys is pos­ing a new chal­lenge to traf­fic man­age­ment and safe fly­ing. IAF has in­ducted ad­di­tional per­son­nel to en­sure smooth plan­ning, co­or­di­na­tion and ex­e­cu­tion of fly­ing op­er­a­tions, be it Air Force, Army or civil­ians.

Op­er­a­tion Surya Hope

The In­dian Army put in place and com­menced ex­e­cu­tion of ‘Op­er­a­tion Surya Hope’ with the aim of pro­vid­ing suc­cor, hope, hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and lo­gis­tic needs in Badri­nath, Hemkund and Kedar­nath re­gions. In first phase, Army teams car­ried out re­con­nais­sance of area and air evac­u­a­tion of iso­lated pock­ets along Govin­dghat-Badri­nath road and Gha­griya-Hemkund track on June 19 and con­cen­trate iso­lated peo­ple at Badri­nath and Gha­griya by June 20.

In the sec­ond phase, Army fo­cused on the Kedar­nath re­gion. Af­ter re­con­nais­sance of the area, troops have con­cen­trated re­lief ef­forts at Son­prayag and Kedar­nath. In both Badri­nath and Kedar­nath sec­tors, Army in­ducted soldiers us­ing helicopters and sta­tioned them at ev­ery 2 km all along the roads to en­able them to con­tact iso­lated peo­ple. Soldiers were pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship, suc­cor, med­i­cal air and or­gan­is­ing en­gi­neer­ing ef­forts to clear road. Army in­ducted over 12 med­i­cal teams and opened emer­gency med­i­cal helpline. Be­sides it is pro­vid­ing stranded civil­ians’ ac­cess to Army com­mu­ni­ca­tions to fa­cil­i­tate them to con­tact their fam­i­lies.

The Army so far in­ducted 5,600 per­son­nel to car­ry­out re­lief and res­cue op­er­a­tions. About 15 Army helicopters have been pressed into ser­vice. At the time of writ­ing this re­port, the Army so far evac­u­ated 1,610 civil­ians in Ut­tarkashi dis­trict and pro­vided shel­ter, food and med­i­cal aid to 1,300 peo­ple. In the Joshi­math sec­tor, 3,034 civil­ians have been evac­u­ated to Joshi­math so far and shel­ter, food and warm cloth­ing have been pro­vided to 1,276 peo­ple. In Kedar­nath re­gion, Army has been able to es­tab­lish con­tact and dis­trib­ute food pack­ets to 250 peo­ple at iso­lated places. It had evac­u­ated 1,550 peo­ple from Govin­dghat, in­ducted four more med­i­cal teams on Badri­nath and Hemkund axis, dis­trib­uted more than 5,000 food pack­ets in Govin­dghat, Pan­dukesh­war, iso­lated lo­ca­tions in Badri­nath and Kedar­nath re­gions.

Lt Gen­eral Anil Chait, Army Com­man­der, Cen­tral Com­mand, along with core team of of­fi­cers are now lo­cated in the for­ward area of Ut­tarak­hand to per­son­ally take stock of the sit­u­a­tion, co­or­di­nate and en­sure ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of the plan with the sole aim of pro­vid­ing re­lief and res­cue to stranded pop­u­la­tion.

ITBP at work

The Indo-Ti­betan Bor­der Po­lice (ITBP) has evac­u­ated all vic­tims from Kedar­nath Mandir area. How­ever, vic­tims from Ram­bada area are be­ing evac­u­ated on foot to Kedar­nath area from where they are be­ing air­lifted. Teams of the National Disas­ter re­lief Force (NDRF) and ITBP is now search­ing for vic­tims in nearby ar­eas. ITBP air­lifted 350 vic­tims from Gau­ri­gaon and 275 vic­tims from Ram­bada. A ma­jor break­through came on Badri­nath axis where more than 10,000 peo­ple are stranded. ITBP was able to make a rope bridge at, what used to be the Lam­ba­gad bridge over the river Alak­nanda. One res­cue party of the ITBP evac­u­ated about 400 vic­tims from Badri­nath on foot, who were brought to Pan­dukesh­war.

Three bat­tal­ions and per­son­nel of Moun­taineer­ing & Ski­ing In­sti­tute are car­ry­ing out res­cue and re­lief op­er­a­tions. Th­ese teams are well trained for moun­tain res­cue. They are ac­cli­ma­tised and equipped with spe­cialised equip­ments used for re­lief and res­cue work at high al­ti­tude moun­tain­ous ar­eas. Th­ese teams are trained for such types of re­lief and res­cue work as ITBP does most of the search and res­cue work in high Hi­malayas.

BRO work­ing over­time

The Bor­der Roads Or­gan­i­sa­tion was work­ing over­time hav­ing de­ployed over 3,000 of its per­son­nel and var­i­ous equip­ment to clear roads. It has di­verted its re­sources, per­son­nel and equip­ment for projects such as Shiva­lik, Deepak and Hi­rak for clear­ing roads and to res­cue the af­fected peo­ple. All bull­doz­ers, JCBs, ex­ca­va­tors, com­pres­sors and other plat­forms have been de­ployed for the res­cue and restora­tion work.

IAF’s Mi-17 he­li­copter and C-130J in res­cue op­er­a­tions

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