Saturday, June 6, 2015

Operation Maitri - Restoring and Rebuilding Nepal

 Operation Maitri – Rebuilding Nepal

   At around 12’0 on 25th the April, the earth shook in Nepal and across northern and eastern India. Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earth quake which reduced the nation to rubble's, Eastern India bear the brunt with the several buildings across Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The earth quake triggered avalanches across the Himalayan range. Landslides were witnesses and major roads were taken out.

       Aftershocks continued for several days, the highest measuring almost up to 7.1 on the Richter scale. The earth quake had left a trail of destruction and several villages across Nepal were left inaccessible. Going by the magnitude of the earthquake it was sure that the casualties suffered in the calamity was very high and the rescue missions were the need of the hour.

      Nepal was overwhelmed by the scale of destruction and with a limited military and para-military force was forced to look out for a multi-nation rescue operation. Being Nepal’s immediate neighbor India responded with in minutes to the request. PM Modi promised a full scale rescue mission would be mounted within the shortest possible span.

        It was decided that the immediate response team would consist of rescue and medical teams which were formed by the NDRF and Ghurkha regiment officers. The first C-130J carrying NDRF officials and 3 tonnes of medical and emergency supplies took off by 4:00 PM. Air force, Army and NDRF assets were immediately put on standby for any eventuality. GOI planned further missions once the airport in Nepal was declared safe for operations.

      The NDRF was charged with carrying out the rescue and relief mission and the army was charged with setting up facilities for relief operations. By the evening ten teams from the NDRF consisting of almost 500 personnel and sniffer dogs were ordered to be flown to Nepal with the assistance of IAF. With the KTM airport being declared safe for operations, IAF rolled out the gigantic C-17 Globe master III.

     The C-17 on the first day was dispatched to KTM with NDRF teams, Rapid Action Medical Teams (RAMT) and Medical teams. The aircraft also carried essential supplies which consisted of blankets, food packets, water, medical supplies, tents and transportable operation theaters for the RAMT. The IL-76 heavy lifters were also pressed into action. By the first day Indian Air Force had carried out more than 20 sorties and had evacuated thousands of survivors which included citizens from US, UK and many other nations.

      IAF had operated sorties throughout the night flying to and fro from KTM. By the second day the operation was officially code named “Operation Maitri “, IAF by then had pressed more than 10 aircraft into action which included the C-17 Globemaster III, IL-76, C-130J and An-32’s. Sunday morning flights were dedicated to transporting urgent medical supplies and medical teams. Engineering teams were also dispatched which were instrumental in setting up forward field hospitals and tents to accommodate the survivors.

           The second half of the day saw IAF making sorties with additional NDRF teams and engineering teams. Almost 50 tons of water and 22 tons of food supplies were stacked up in KTM airport. India also started mounting a huge scale evacuation operation and operated 35 buses from Nepal. Bad weather and repeated aftershocks forced IAF to hold back pressing the helicopters into service.

          On the ground the NDRF and the Army jawans had started searching for survivors. NDRF teams were pulling out survivors from debris. The injured were being treated in first aid centers setup across the nation. To treat the critically wounded were being taken care of in forward field hospitals which included OT’s and ICU’s.

         The engineering teams primarily started constructing as many field hospitals possible and then concentrated on pitching up tents for the survivors. The engineering team was also put in charge of clearing debris and clearing roads, which could then help gain access to remote villages. With the tents setup the army started with the process of distributing food and water to the affected and the process of rehabilitation to the centers started.

         With roads being rendered inactive many villages remained inaccessible, to access these villages IAF pitched in their helicopters. IAF initially deployed 8 Mi-17 and 2 Dhruv’s to assist in the operations. The Mi-17 and Dhruv dropped relief supplies to the worst affected valleys where landing was not possible. Several wounded and stranded people were evacuated in the helicopters from the remotest areas. Dhruv under the Army Aviation corps was also pitched into service.

      The rotary crafts served the remotest areas of Nepal and helped save thousands of injured and survivors. The Mi-17 were based at Pokhara and Kathmandu. These Mi-17’s were part of the large scale relief and rescue operations in inaccessible areas like Barpak, Gorkha, Aroghat and Lukla.

       The combined Indian forces worked in Nepal for well over 40 days. The Air force and army together flew more than 2223 sorties in a span of just 38 days. About 11200 people were transported to safer places and about 1700 tonne of relief material was dropped for people in distress. The Rapid Action Medical Teams (RAMT) cared for almost 4762 injured people and conducted more than 300 successful operations.

  The NDRF worked tirelessly to restore human life in Kathmandu. NDRF saved thousands of life’s even as the earth shook when they deep inside buildings. The Engineering Task Force (ETF) cleared many routes which were rendered inactive because of the quake and landslides. The ETF were instrumental in help re-connect villages which helped in relief operations. The ETF also restored several hundred buildings and bridges across the nation.

      The earth quake was the worst calamity to have struck Nepal after the 1934 earth quake. More than 9000 people lost their life and the quake left 22000 people injured. The earth quake left a trail of destruction rendering thousands of Nepali’s homeless, homes and buildings were razed to the ground. After shocks has continued to rock Nepal keeping its people in constant fear. More than 450000 people have been displaced and have lost their livelihood.

        Widespread avalanches and landslides were reported across the nation further endangering human life. The economic loss Nepal has suffered cannot be calculated at the movement but with its limited resources it is extremely hard for Nepal alone to fund reconstruction programs. US, India and the World Bank have stepped forward to assist Nepal with the rehabilitation programs. With the help of India and the world fraternity, Nepal has promised to be back on its feet. I sincerely wish Nepal regains its status and thrives as India’s most reliable neighbor.

Article - Karthik Kakoor

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