India: Rescue OPS by IAF for flash foods in Jammu Region

News and Press Release
Originally published
New Delhi - Incessant rains on 06 Jul 05 in the upper regions of Jammu and Udhampur region gave a forewarning to the state administration and the Air Force of the impending flash floods in Tawi and its sister tributaries. At around 0845 hrs when the state administration requisitioned for a helicopter to evacuate stranded people from the Tawi river, AF Station Jammu immediately launched a Mi-17 helicopter for rescue operations.

Wg Cdr A Janu along with Sqn Ldr R Janardanan, Flt Engr Sgt Samantharay and Flt Gnrs JWO Unni Kumar and Sgt RS Singh rose up to the challenge of the continuing inclement weather and were airborne at 0900 hrs. They headed straight to Tawi River where a truck with three persons was stranded in the middle of the river in flowing water. They landed next to the truck in muddy waters to rescue them. Next, they found three more persons, including a woman holding on to a bush and life in gushing water. Hovering low over the turbulent waters, they winched up all three to safety. A further racee was carried out in continuous rain to find six more people stranded in a temple whose ground floor was already submerged and water level rising at an alarming rate. The temple's spikes and flags did no! t permit the aircraft to come low. The persons were signaled to come down the half submerged temple steps from where they were winched up.

After having his aircraft refueled, Wg Cdr Janu along with Flt Lt Multani, Sgt Anjani Kumar, JWO Unni Kumar and Sgt RS Singh proceeded towards Kathua where the Ujh River was in spate. Operating north and south of the bridges, he rescued 91 people from six different locations, one being almost a kilometer from the IB. Of these eight were winched up and 83, by hovering low and landing in slushy or muddy waters. All the rescued people were being dropped off at the Police grounds.

In the meantime, the CO of the unit Wg Cdr Sudheer Maingi along with Sqn Ldr Janardanan, Sgt Manoj Kumar, Sgt Chandra and Sgt Shekhawat as Flt Gnrs, winched up 12 marooned people from Jammu area and took them to safety. Frantic calls were made to the ATC and COO to direct the aircraft towards RS Pura to rescue 14 BSF personnel who were swept away along with the bund on which they were standing. Conscious of the fact that the aircraft was operating close to the IB, the crew made several orbits to locate the swept away BSF personnel. Only after directions from a on-field commentator, received on the cell phone by the COO, were relayed to the aircraft crew did they find the BSF personnel hanging onto the fence for dear life. 14 of them were winched up literally from the Border fence. Wg Cdr Janu on his way back from Kathua, was directed to proceed to RS Pura! area to locate and winch in 11 persons stranded on a tractor trolley in the middle of the river.

Type of Operation. They type of operations undertaken were winching in, from as high as 30 mtrs to maintain clear of obstacles and wire cables or hover as low as 2 to 3 mtrs. Persons were winched in from all places one can think of, like from atop a tractor trolley, temple steps, and rooftops and from the IB border fence. The aircrafts also landed in muddy grounds most of the time.

Weather Conditions. The weather was bad as expected. Turbulent and strong surface winds coupled with light to heavy rain made hover difficult. Low clouds in Kathua region hampered sighting of marooned people.

General Conditions. The winching operations required total concentration and nerves of steel as there were strong and turbulent winds, the gushing waters giving you a wrong feeling of moving ahead or sideways. The absence of reference points made matters worse for the crew to maintain a steady hover, which the Flt Gnr insisted. The criss-crossing and close proximity of HT cables on the rivers hampered winching operations. Tall trees and obstructions everywhere slowed down operations.

Flying Effort. In all, the unit flew a total of 16 sorties 10:05 hours to rescue a total of 140 people including 14 BSF personnel. Of these 54 persons were winched in while 86 were rescued by landing in their close vicinity. 24 were picked up from around Jammu Tawi river area, 25 from RS Pura area and the rest from Kathua region.