The Indian military has mounted a massive relief operation in quake-hit Nepal, using its fleet of transport aircraft to rush in rescue teams and relief materials and ferry back stranded Indians.
The operation was launched shortly after the 7.9-magnitude quake hit Nepal at 11.56 am on Saturday, and the first military plane carrying relief materials and Indian experts landed in Kathmandu before 6pm.
The quick response again highlighted India’s emergence as a country capable of a rapid response to natural disasters and emergencies in the region, an offshoot of its drive to ramp up the strategic lift capabilities of its air force and navy.
The Indian Air Force has mobilised its Il-76, C-130J Hercules and C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft and Mi-17 helicopters for Operation Maitri, the name for the relief efforts in Nepal.
The Indian Army has sent a major general to Nepal to oversee the rescue and relief efforts, in which the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) too is playing a key role. The NDRF has dispatched 10 teams to Nepal for its first major operation on foreign soil.
Defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said 10 flights by military aircraft were planned for Sunday. The aircraft will carry water, food, army forward hospitals, engineering task forces, NDRF teams, medical personnel and equipment, blankets and tents.
“India is moving in massive amount of rescue and relief material, equipment and specialists today,” Kar said.
Five Mi-17 helicopters landed at Kathmandu on Sunday and three more were expected to take off from Gorakhpur airbase later in the day. These helicopters will be used for missions such as air-dropping relief materials.
The defence ministry has put assets of the army, air force and Border Roads Organisation on standby for relief operations. Officials said these assets can be ferried at short notice to Nepal from airbases such as Hindon and Gorakhpur.
The air force’s heavy lift aircraft have also been used for surveillance missions and to bring back Indian nationals stranded in Nepal. A C-130J Hercules that airlifted an NDRF team conducted aerial reconnaissance of roads damaged by the quake in Pokhara region, which is located close to the temblor’s epicentre.
So far, the heavy lift aircraft have ferried back 546 Indian nationals in four flights from Kathmandu since Saturday night.
#NepalEarthquake Four IAF aircraft have returned from Kathmandu with a total of 540 stranded Indians. More flights planned for day— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) April 26, 2015
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