Topography, population were challenges: Forces

Coordination by State govt highlighted

The Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) taken up in Kerala was one of the highest intensities ever taken up by the defence forces in the country, Air Marshal B. Suresh, Air Officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Air Command, has said. He was addressing a joint press conference of the forces at the Southern Air Command here on Sunday.

“The HADR operations, like in Uttarakhand, were much more spread out. Here, everything was packed into a short period of less than two weeks. The disaster spread rapidly throughout Kerala, not one by one. The topography with a lot of vegetation, and it being a continuously populated State, were challenges. We had to react quickly. We need to have situational awareness, on which area was under stress. The Chief Minister chaired each daily meeting through which we got this information. He was very clear in his mind on where each asset had to be deployed,” he said.

Central support

He said that there were clear instructions from the Central government to not hold back and to provide all possible support to the State government. From the State government’s side, there was close coordination and cooperation on all fronts, with not even one area of shortfall, said the Air Marshal.

For the Air Force, this was the largest disaster-related induction exercise ever conducted in the country in terms of load wherein over 1,200 tonnes of materials were airlifted at short notice. All the main fixed-wing transport assets of the IAF comprising C-17, C-130, IL-76, and AN-32 aircraft were involved.

Commander of Pangode Military Station Brigadier C.G. Arun said 70 columns of a composite nature, including engineering task forces, were flown in from all across the country. They were involved in road opening, clearing of land slips, and construction of temporary bridges utilising the natural resources available in the area.

So far, approximately 26 temporary bridges have been constructed or repaired and approximately 50 roads have been cleared for the public. A total of 15,360 people, stranded in various parts of flood-affected areas of Kerala, have been rescued by the troops of Southern Command.

For the Southern Naval Command too, this was the largest ever HADR operation, with a total of 16,843 persons having been rescued, of which 15,670 were by boat, while 1,173 had to be airlifted. The efforts reached a peak with 92 rescue teams with Gemini boats deployed in a day.

Commander S. Sanooj said the entire operation was coordinated at the joint operation centre under the leadership of Vice Admiral A.K. Chawls. Diving teams were sent at the request of the Kerala Water Authority to make submerged water pumping stations operational.

“In the last few days, we could really predict where the water would flow. We evacuated 1.2 lakh people from Kuttanand before water reached there,” said the Commander.

Coast Guard Commandant (Vizhinjam) V.K. Varghese said 13 of the Coast Guars ships were mobilised for the rescue operations in which seven bases were actively involved. Thirty six teams of rescue, of eight to nine people each, were formed. The awareness of the fishermen and the local people were also utilised in the operations.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 12:50:42 PM |

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