DGCA suspends helicopter relief operations in Uttarakhand after crash
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has suspended helicopter operations in Uttarakhand after a helicopter carrying relief material in heavy rain affected areas of Uttarkashi district crashed killing all three people on board on Wednesday and another helicopter carrying similar relief made an emergency landing on Friday afternoon in the same district.
After a meeting with the Uttarakhand Civil Aviation Development Authority (UCADA), State Disaster Relief Authority (SDRA) and representatives of two helicopter operators part of the relief operation, on Saturday, the DGCA has said the operations will remain suspended till the state government comes up with a standard operating procedure for the operation. However, if needed, DGCA has agreed to give permission for helicopter operation in case to case basis.
“Role and responsibility of the state administration shall be clearly defined in the SOPs to ensure safety of operations, identification and validation of local data, which should include terrain hazards, obstacles such as cables, wires, poles, pylons etc. UCADA will maintain such database duly certified by the state administration and will provide the same for helicopter operators prior to commencement of such operations,” DGCA chief Arun Kumar said.
The DGCA will provide technical assistance in the preparation of the SOP. For evacuation and provision of food and medical supplies, the state government had requested the service of civil helicopters. Relief operations with civil helicopters started on August 19 in the affected areas.
According to DGCA, in the first accident that took place on August 21, the helicopter hit apple cart cables after take-off from Mauldi and crashed. In the second incident on Friday, in which two people suffered minor injuries, the helicopter again hit apple cart cables.
Earlier on Friday morning, rescue teams airlifted two pregnant women aged 25 and 21 respectively, from heavy rain affected Arakot area of Uttarkashi to Dehradun.
Heavy rains have killed at least 15 people and destroyed property worth at least Rs 80-100 crore in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi, the worst-hit district in the state, in the past few days. The torrential rains had hit about 12 villages including the worst affected Arakot, Makodi, Tikochi and Sanail villages in Uttarkashi, about 150 km away from Dehradun on Saturday and Sunday, damaging or washing away 20 houses.
Several people were reported to be buried under debris as rescue teams launched efforts to search for them. Uttarakhand is among the north Indian states that have been reeling under the impact of incessant rains causing large-scale damage.