The Kerala flood rescue operation was the largest disaster relief exercise the Air Force has ever conducted, with its powerful aircraft dropping a total of 2.47 lakh kg of relief material. The Air Force had to pinpoint areas that were inaccessible even by boats to rescue people in the flood-wrecked state.
The Air Force's flood relief and rescue operations in Kerala saw many firsts, a top Air Force officer said.
With 584 "winchings" -- pulling up stranded people to a hovering helicopter using a strong line -- the Air Force said it was the highest number of winchings any branch of the armed forces has ever done in a humanitarian operation.
The helicopter pilots flew with a very high situational awareness as rescuing people from homes surrounded by tall trees was a difficult and dangerous task that had no room for error. The flooded state's topography was such that all the aircraft got only a few places to land, the Air Force said.
"Everyone has done a fantastic job. Good coordination. The challenge was topography, Kerala is densely vegetated," Air Marshal B Suresh, AOC-in-C, Southern Air Command, told reporters today.
He said the four phases of the Air Force's Kerala flood rescue operation were induction of material, rescue missions, relief operations and rehabilitation work.
In areas where no one could reach, the Army waded through floodwaters to reach people. "They were working in wet clothes. Their only mission was to give safety to people," he said at the joint service press conference today.
For the first time, the Air Force also deployed two mobile hospitals built on boats where patients could come on boats, get treated and return. This helped reduce pressure on regular hospitals. The mobile hospitals were deployed in Chatenkery and Alappuzha.
Of the 29 helicopters deployed for relief and rescue sorties, two were tasked only for dropping relief material, the Air Force said. The Air Force deployed 3,107 support service personnel.
265 people have died in the Kerala floods since August 8.
(Kerala has to rebuild itself after the worst floods in over a century. Hundreds have died and lakhs are homeless. Here is how you can help.)