IAF steps up rescue sorties in Nepal

| Sunday, April 26, 2015 - 17:58
First Published |

IAF steps up rescue sorties in Nepal

New Delhi: After ferrying 546 Indian citizens back to India from Kathmandu, the personnel of Indian Air Force on Sunday carried out sorties to evacuate people, mostly locals, from the areas worst affected by the earthquake the day before, officials said.

In support of the Nepalese Army, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has rescued 171 people in 21 sorties, Sitanshu Kar, the spokesperson for the defence ministry here, said. The IAF has deployed 4 MI-17-V5 and 2-MI-17 choppers, he added.

"The IAF has carried out aerial recce in support of the Nepalese government under the guidance of the Nepalese Army covering worst-affected districts of Gorkha, Dhading, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchok and Dolakha," Kar said.

"Some more sorties are underway. The plan is to drop relief supplies in worst-affected valleys in case landing is not possible. The IAF helicopters are flying almost non-stop since this morning," the spokesperson added.

"The Nepalese Army pilots are also flying on board Indian helicopters to familiarise the Indian pilots with the terrain."

Till Sunday morning the IAF planes had fetched 546 Indian citizens, including several infants, back from quake-hit Nepal. The operations had to be stalled between 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., since the Kathmandu airport was shut temporarily due to fresh tremors. 

The first IAF plane to arrive here from the Nepalese capital was a C-130J Super Hercules with 55 passengers, including four infants, on board around 10.45 p.m. on Saturday, followed by a C-17 Globemaster III, a little after midnight with 101 passengers and an infant.

In the early hours of Sunday, an IL-76 aircraft brought back 152 passengers, and at around 4.45 a.m., another C-17 Globemaster III returned with 247 Indians.

The Indian defence forces, meanwhile, have decided to step up their search, rescue and humanitarian efforts in Nepal, which was hit by a devastating earthquake just before noon on Saturday, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction.

"Ten flights are planned for Kathmandu today. These would be airlifting army forward hospitals, engineering task forces, water, food, National Disaster Response Force teams, medical personnel and equipment, blankets and tents," said Kar.

Sunday's sorties will also involve choppers. Kar said six MI helicopters stationed at Gorakhpur, in north-west Uttar Pradesh, and six others at various places were pressed into service. 

The first to fly out to Kathmandu was a light MI chopper, followed by five MI-17 helicopters from Gorakhpur. "India will also be augmenting rescue efforts by pressing into service four more helicopters, including two Indian Air Force ALH Dhruvs later in the day," Kar said.

Over 2,130 people were killed and thousands were injured when a devastating earthquake and several strong aftershocks caused widespread destruction in Nepal. India was also affected. 

The quake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale. The epicentre was Nepal's Lamjung district, some 75 km northwest of capital Kathmandu. Over 50 aftershocks were also felt.

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