Salute to the Saviours

The largest ever HADR flood rescue mission was launched in flood-hit Kerala

A FORCE Report

Weeks of heavy monsoon rains triggered landslides and floods that Kerala had never seen before in years. While it is normal for Kerala to get some of the country’s highest rainfall during monsoon season, this year it received 37 per cent more, said the India Meteorological Department. Once the news of the floods arrived, the entire nation swung into action, led by the Indian armed forces. Thousands of personnel of the Indian Navy, air force and army got engaged in the rescue, relief and evacuation operations with the support of dozens of helicopters, aircraft and hundreds of motorboats. The armed forces’ stellar role in the rescue operations is laudable.

Salute to the Saviours


IAF’s HADR Missions

The Indian Air Force (IAF) organised the largest Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) flood rescue operations till date with its powerful aircraft dropping a total of 2.47 lakh kg of relief material. The air force had to reach areas that were inaccessible even by boats to rescue people.

The IAF’s flood relief and rescue operations in Kerala saw many firsts, a senior air force officer said. The use of 584 ‘winchings’ — pulling up stranded people to a hovering helicopter using a strong line — was the highest number that any branch of the armed forces had ever used in a humanitarian operation. When the flood started, the IAF swung into action immediately by extending all possible assistance. Concerted efforts were made by the IAF in rescuing stranded people from the flooded areas. Women, children, the elderly and others were winched from rooftops of submerged houses to safety by IAF helicopters. As of August 21, the IAF has been able to rescue over 663 people stranded in the floods. The IAF helicopters have also dropped food and water packets to stranded people in the affected areas. Transport aircraft from all corners of the country have been flying day and night to ensure relief material reached all the relief camps. Five An-32 transport aircraft were deployed to transport NDRF teams and their equipment from Arakkonam to Calicut on 9 August 2018.

As the water started receding from the flood-affected districts, the IAF reduced the rescue effort and is now concentrating on relief operations. Till date, 974 tonnes of relief material have been airlifted to Kerala. Medical teams from Southern Air Command and Training Command have been deployed at various places to provide medical assistance. In addition, No. 1 Rapid Action Medical Team (RAMT) has been airlifted from Command Hospital Air Force Bengaluru to Thiruvananthapuram to assist in medical relief efforts. RAMT has the capability to provide both medical and surgical emergency medical care. Additionally, 119 doctors with 63 tonnes of medicine and equipment have been airlifted to Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram for further positioning at various medical camps.

Air Marshal B. Suresh, AOC-in-C, Southern Air Command, explaining the phases of HADR missions, said that the four phases of the Air Force’s Kerala flood rescue operation were the induction of material, rescue missions, relief operations and rehabilitation work.

This was the first time that the IAF also deployed two mobile hospitals built on boats where patients could come on boats, get treated and return. This helped reduce pressure on regular hospitals. The mobile hospitals were deployed in Chatenkery and Alappuzha.

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