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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Saviours lose their own lives: 20 rescuers killed in chopper crash

Tragedy Strikes Day After IAF Sets Record By Evacuating 4,500
We're Grieving But Will Finish Job: Air Chief

Harsil/Dehradun/New Delhi: It turned out to be tragedy upon a tragedy. The rescue and relief operations in Uttarakhand took a tragic turn on Tuesday afternoon when an IAF MI-17-V5 medium-lift helicopter crashed north of Gaurikund, killing all the five crew members and 15 others on board.
    The IAF's Garud commandos found eight bodies after they slithered down from a helicopter to reach the wreck
age site in what was described "as a treacherous narrow valley, with steep walls'', before further operations were called off due to approaching dusk.
    "Three more bodies were found later,'' said an officer. Ironically, the crash came a day after the IAF on Monday had defied adverse weather to rescue 4,500 people flying 330 sorties, making it the biggest evacuation carried out by helicopters anywhere in the world.
    "While we have suffered this tragic loss, and are grieving, we will continue with our mission and finish the job,'' Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne told TOI on Tuesday night. The IAF chief will fly to De
hradun and Gauchar, which has become a hub of the rescue operations, on Wednesday "to be with all the brave boys and boost morale''.
    Despite the crash, work
on the ground carried on without interruption. As many as 300 people crossed the Lambagad rope bridge near Badrinath, another 300 walked from Govindghat to Joshimath. Some 120 people were airlifted from Badrinath while 895 people were evacuated on foot.
Epidemic outbreak? 128 villagers fall ill

    The fear of an epidemic outbreak has deepened with 128 villagers and three ITBP men reporting to medical camps with fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. Authorities blame contamination of natural water sources due to hundreds of decaying bodies across the valley. 
LIC to ease claim settlement norms
    As a special measure, Life Insurance Corporation of India will waive the normal seven-year waiting period for settlement of claims in case of missing persons. Details will be finalized in 72 hours. CM Vijay Bahuguna has already said the state will issue death certificates after a month's waiting period. P 17 
Lack of manpower delays cremation
    Lack of manpower and resources is threatening to delay the extrication and cremation of unclaimed bodies at Kedarnath as the ITBP has refused to go beyond its limited mandate of rescuing survivors. All ITBP men camping in Kedarnath might be called back in the next two to three days. P 16 
TIMES VIEW: THE TOP PRIORITY TO-DO AGENDA SHORT-TERM MEASURES 1 Evacuate all stranded pilgrims. Comb affected areas for missing 2 Urgent need of medicines & shelter for locals. Prevent outbreak of epidemics 3 Restore phone, power and water lines 4 Over 200 villages cut off. Rebuild roads/bridges leading to them 5 Create warehouses for relief material. Create efficient distribution system MEDIUM- AND LONG-TERM STEPS 1 Tabulate damage to locals. Create detailed rehab plans; create necessary finance 2 Regulate pilgrims to Chardham yatra like Amarnath Yatra. Register pilgrims/tourists going to disaster-prone areas 3 Identify natural drainage channels, declog them if blocked 4 Frame building guidelines; enforce them strictly 5 Train school teachers to boost disaster preparedness. Harness local resource as response in first 48 hours of disaster is crucial 6 Make environmental assessment together with state GDP statistics to measure growth Locals seeking to get away also being moved out
Harsil/Dehradun/New Delhi: On a day an IAF chopper crashed in Uttarakhand, killing 20 rescuers, 40 pilgrims from Tamil Nadu were still stranded at Sirka village in Chamoli district.
    On Monday evening, IAF officers overseeing the airlift from Harsil, close to Gangotri, reported that the last of some 2,000 persons had been moved out.
    To their surprise, a thousand more appeared on Tuesday, requiring renewed sorties. Some of the new arrivals were tourists and pilgrims who had fled the floods, but many were locals just keen to get away.
    "Having lost their cattle and with no prospect of tourism reviving, many local citizens wanted to leave for a few weeks. The rescuers
didn't say no, they are moving everyone out," said a top official involved in coordinating operations.
    The surge of people at Harsil highlighted the task before the armed forces, paramilitary and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) on a day when despite bad weather IAF choppers flew 40 sorties and all agencies together evacuated 2,393 people. As IAF pilots fly on the edge to reach difficult destinations—while also keeping an eye out for other choppers in a murky sky where there are no air traffic controllers—the rescue has zeroed onto Harsil, Joshimath and Badrinath.
    There are around 3,600 people in various relief camps who need to be brought back. Some estimates put this figure at around 6-7,000.
    Although food supplies are adequate, medical facili
ties are needed while shortages of items like edible oil are being addressed. Faced with logistical challenges, the Centre has formed an action plan to address the situation as the last of the evacuees leave Uttarakhand over the next few days.
    Topping the list are health concerns, not only for victims but for rescue personnel working under conditions of rain and in proximity to dead and decomposing bodies. Medical supplies and doctors are being mobilized on a war footing.
    Some 266 of 270 mobile towers are now working. BSNL is starting a service where the mobile number of a missing person can be traced to the last used location. A centralized list of missing persons will be up on the Uttarakhand government website along with a list of those who have been found.

Workers load an IAF helicopter with wood for mass cremation of flood victims in Kedarnath


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