We welcome your comments on flyingmag.com. In order to maintain a respectful environment, we ask that all comments be on-topic, respectful and spam-free. All comments made here are public and may be republished by Flying.
Flooding in India Launches Massive Helicopter Recovery Effort
Last week’s massive flooding in India has killed at least 1,000 and stranded thousands more. The New York Times reports civilian and military helicopters are participating in the rescue and recovery operation.
On Tuesday, a Russian-built Mi-17 helicopter crashed into a mountain while returning from a mission in the area of the Kedarnath Valley, some 11,000 feet above sea level. The Indian Air Force crew of five and 14 passengers — described as paramilitary personnel — were killed. The passengers were returning home after a week of building temporary helipads, helping dig out survivors and recovering bodies.
High winds, heavy rain and a lack of available landing pads have hampered rescue operations. According to the Air Force, some 5,000 people are still stranded in need of evacuation. Most are pilgrims who had traveled to a religious shrine in the town of Kedarnath.
In one operation, according to the Times story, a pilot noticed about 100 people trapped on a steep slope above an overflowing river. He maneuvered close enough to drop four soldiers who carved out a helipad large enough for one of the smaller helicopters to land. The sight of the hovering helicopter attracted as many as 1,000 stranded pilgrims who were all rescued.
India’s National Disaster Management Authority hopes to have all pilgrims rescued by tomorrow. The head of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K Browne, told reporters to assure survivors, “Our helicopter rotors will not stop churning until such time as we get each one of you out. Do not lose hope, and hang in there.”
As of Tuesday, the air force reported it had flown 1,400 sorties and transported 12,000 stranded victims. But one grim mission remained, as transport aircraft carried tons of wood to the flooded region for mass cremations of the dead.