Pride was writ large on the faces of the naval staff at Arakkonam Base, the strategic defence asset that is playing a stellar and critical role in carrying out rescue and relief operations in flood-hit Chennai.
“This is the best Navy Day for us. No celebrations, this is the celebration... uniting families. Our duty is to save peoples’ lives and this occasion fills us with pride and humility,” a senior Naval official told PTI.
The naval base, located 70 km south of Chennai, and the Tambaram Air Base, 30 kms outside the Capital, have become the nerve centres for rescue operations.
Over 600 evacuees were ferried from the base, named ‘INS Rajali’ on Saturday. As people lined up to board aircraft on the tarmac, they shook the shook the hands of the naval staff and officials on duty.
Lt. Commander Abhinav, who helped in crowd management, wished ‘Happy Navy Day’ to all on his megaphone, and as many people came to wish him back, he shook their hands strongly with pride flushed on his face.
“It is not the importance that we have as one of the three forces of the country, but what we do that make us feel proud. Today is a day of celebration for us, and by rescuing people or contributing to the operations, we are celebrating it,” Lt. Abhinav said.
December 4 is celebrated as Navy Day to commemorate the start of operation Trident during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had landed at Arakkonam Base on December 4 to assess the situation in the wake of torrential rains in Chennai that has left several areas of the city and its neighbouring regions inundated.
“The PM’s aircraft landed here and from INS Rajali, he boarded a Mi-14 chopper to conduct an aerial survey of the damage caused and relied and rescue needed. He later landed at ‘INS Adyar’ where he met the Chief Minister,” the senior naval official said.
Having one of the longest military runways in India, the naval base is facilitating rescue operations by allowing easy landing for C-17s, which have been ferrying civilians, NDRF and defence personnel teams.
“We are feeling very happy today. This day means a lot to us. And, we have been able to play a critical role in rescuing people. That makes us feel prouder today,” said Sub Lieutenant Sidharth.
As per the rescue plan, the IAF has made an air bridge between Meenambakkam (airport area) and Arakonnam and another one between Tamabaram Air Base and Arakonnam Base.