Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 16 January 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

SLAF helps rescue flood victims

Delivering aid items

On January 9 around 3.30 pm Bell 212 pilots reached Ampara Air Force base. They were ready for a daring mission on the orders from their superiors at the Sri Lanka Air Force headquarters. “Airlifting the helicopters was very risky due to the prevailing bad weather yet, at the opportune moment we made our moves,” Captain of the Bell 212 said. That morning, the Commanding Officer of the No. 7 helicopter squadron under which the Bell 212s operate, told the two pilots, two Air Force Regimental Special Force (RSF) personnel and three air gunners to stands by for this special mission as ordered by air operations directorate under the orders of Air Force Commander Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonetileke.

SLAF, the wings that protect our skies, were ready to rescue the displaced, devastated people caught in the flashing floods in the Eastern province. At the Ampara SLAF base this seven-man rescue team were briefed on the flood situation in Batticaloa yet no one knew where or how to find trapped civilians.

In this unpredictable weather the team had to simply rely on their eyesight to detect victims. First they were instructed to fly to two areas closer to Maha Oya as these were impossible to reach by any mode of transportation as per information from the local civil administration network.

Darkness was rapidly wrapping the area due to bad weather though it was early hours of the evening. “Visibility was just 2 -3 kilometres from the helicopter and we were receiving information continuously from the divisional secretary on the whereabouts of trapped flood victims based on the information he received from people who reached safety points,” the pilot said.

Floods in the Eastern Province

Discussing the rescue and delivery missions

Hit with poor visibility the rescue team, who are armed with experiences of remarkable missions carried out during Ealam war IV, found the weather to be worse than the enemy. For them the enemy was predictable but not the weather which would change its form every five minutes. “We saw the first two victims at Bogamuyaya area and they were holding on to trees,” the co-pilot said. As there were no ground to land the two RSF personnel, were given the responsibility to rescue people by lowering themselves nearly 200 feet from the helicopter using the winch - the machine operated cables. The air gunners on board operated the winch solely based on their experience and common sense as visibility was very low due to the harsh weather.

There was no wind and as the pilots explained the helicopter started to whirl facing this no wind situation, having a full load on board and a RSF personnel and one victim being lifted to the helicopter by the winch. “Normally to escape this situation we need to put in extra power yet with two people hanging on to the cable we could not do that,” the co-pilot said. Holding the position with great difficulty the pilots managed to stay until both victims were brought on board. The drizzle could have disoriented the pilots.On the second day the team managed to save six of the project workers on the Rambakan Oya Development Project and another villager who was trapped in floods as he went searching for his cattle.

“People were devastated and were in shock even after they landed on safe areas with rescue missions. They waved at us yet their faces reflected the trauma they underwent,” the pilots said. “This has been the most privileged mission for us,” they said.

Sri Lanka Air Force Bell 212 helicopter rescued 54 persons trapped in the devastating flood situation from Batticaloa and Ampara in two days. The chopper carried out three shuttles for the rescue mission where 32 individuals from Tampitiya, 14 from Bogamuyaya, seven from Rambakan Oya and one from Valaichenai were flown away for safety from the flood waters.

The Sri Lanka Air Force continued their mission to provide relief aid to victims of flash floods in the Eastern province by airlifting consignments of dry rations using MI-17 helicopters.

The operations which began on January 11 from SLAF China Bay, airlifted 5200 kilograms of dry rations including dhal, sugar, rice, milk powder in a Mi-17 heavy-lift helicopter bound for Somawathiya area in the Polonnaruwa District.

This was followed by another consignment carrying 9,700 kilograms of essential goods sent by a MI-17 from SLAF Base Hingurakgoda to the same location.

Both consignments were dropped at the school grounds of Somawathi Devi Vidyalaya. Later another consignment of wheat flour weighing 2,800 kilograms was airlifted to Somawathiya from Hingurakgoda.

As of late last week the MI-17s of the Air Force have totally airlifted 30,000 kilograms of dry rations and essential items to Batticaloa, Sampur, Somawathiya, Ella, Kantale, Serunuwara and Vakarai areas. SLAF aircraft are still standing-by ready to assist the people.

Pictures courtesy Sri Lanka Air Force



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