Highway converted into air base

food for needy: Chetak helicopters using NH7 as the base for dropping relief supplies, near Pebbair in Mahabubnagar district, on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: - PHOTO: P.V. SIVAKUMAR

N. Rahul

Authorities identify 18 villages for air dropping and rescuing stranded persons

Four Chetak helicopters dropping food and water to people stranded in flood-ravaged villages

About 250 jawans of Bihar Regiment are involved in the rescue operations

BEECHUPALLY (Mahbubnagar dt.): The Hyderabad–Bangalore national highway close to the bridge across river Krishna here was converted into an air base for four Chetak helicopters of Indian Air Force (IAF) as they continuously made sorties dropping food and water to people stranded in flood ravaged villages on the banks of Krishna and its tributary Thunga.

The spot was chosen for the purpose as the road had to be closed for traffic several kilometres ahead on Hyderabad end since the Krishna flowed to a height of ten ft. at the head of the bridge on Bangalore side.

The choppers took off with three crew and about 250 kg of material each time and they quickly returned to the base to take fresh loads. Two of them were involved in relief operations over affected villages of Mahabubnagar district while the other two flew over parts of Kurnool district. The villages were contiguous to Krishna and Thunga.

Thousands of food and water packets as also cartons with bread and milk were kept ready on the road for being loaded into the helicopters without loss of time.

The authorities identified 18 villages of Manopad, Alampur, Waddepally, Ieeja, Veepanagandla, Gadwal and Itikyala mandals for air dropping material and rescuing stranded persons. Wing Commander T.N.B. Singh, who led the operations, told The Hindu that the pilots did not feel the necessity to air lift people as water level was receding. People were helping themselves and moving to safety. Narrating his flying experience over fields, he said he could only see slush all around as the crop was washed away. The boundaries of fields no longer existed. People gathered on rooftops.

While the Air Force was pressed into service in areas that were inaccessible due to snapping of road communication, the Army and police moved in to evacuate people where flooding did not hamper rescue operations. About 250 jawans of Bihar Regiment of Army were involved.

Superintendent of Police G. Sudheer Babu, who coordinated the efforts here, said people in the entire Alampur village were shifted to a school nearby as water reached danger level in the habitation around 1.30 a.m. The police physically moved the priests in the local temple when they refused to leave. He also said residents of Rajoli village were similarly evacuated since it was marooned.