A view from the cockpit
Squadron Leader V Somasundar should know. He flies the Indian Air Force’s MI-17 helicopters that were pressed to service to provide rescue & relief to the quake victims in Kashmir. And this is what he says about India’s response.
When disaster strikes, as soon as we get the information, our commanders are fully empowered to put us on standby. In the case of the October 8 earthquake, our reaction was instant. Within three hours of receiving the alert, we had reached most affected areas, including Tangdhar and Uri. By 2 pm, we had airlifted a medical team from Udhampur to Tangdhar.
This is precisely why we initially prioritized rushing medical succour to the affected areas and evacuated casualties to field areas and hospitals. Once the injured had been rescued and given treatment, we began pumping in relief supplies in our second phase of operations.
And to its credit, the IAF had flown 497 sorties till weather packed up on October 11 evening. The force has already established an air bridge between Delhi and the Valley as supplies from Haryana and Punjab, being sent on a routine basis, picked up.
have witnessed the destruction of Bhuj, the tsunami and the snow tsunami. I can say now that our reaction time has decreased remarkably. This is a sure sign that we are maturing as an organisation and as a nation. [IE]
By day 6 of Operation Imdad, the Indian Army has cleared the route to the Uri and Tangdhar, among the most remote parts of Kashmir affected by the quake. Residents there were seen rebuilding their homes and shops.