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DEHRADUN: Senior IAF officers in the rescue operations underway in Uttarakhand's upper reaches, say this by far is the biggest heli-lift ever in the Air Force's history. "The size of the operations is staggering," said air commodore Rajesh Isser, overseeing operations at the Jolly Grant helipad here. The efforts are gargantuan. The IAF has deployed 45 aircraft and logged in over 1,000 flying hours in the last week, airlifting 11,826 pilgrims to date. Air chief marshal NAK Browne on Monday said, " Our helicopter rotors will not stop churning till we get each one of you out, do not lose hope and hang in there."
The IAF has since June 17 flown about 1,279 sorties and dropped or landed over 1,88,062 kg relief material and equipment. "This is likely our biggest heli-lift ever," a senior officer at Jolly Grant said. By 7 am, the air force are ready for the day. Their work doesn't stop at airlifting. They are often seen feeding the rescued — from Badrinath, Harsil, Gauchar, talking to them, calming their jittery, disoriented minds. Wing commander Gerard Galway, a key officer here said he's never seen anything like this. "Even by global standards what we're doing here is massive. We're in for the long haul." Back after bringing about 30 pilgrims from Badrinath, squadron leader Manoj Gautam is beat. But when a passenger clasps his hands in gratitude, Gautam humbly says the entire armed forces, especially the Army and ITBP, are doing an equally phenomenal job. "The credit has to be shared
About 19 people, including Air Force and para-military personnel, were today feared killed when a sophisticated IAF helicopter crashed in bad weather near Gaurikund in Uttarakhand during rescue operations.
Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) M Sashidhar Reddy said eight bodies have been recovered and chances of any survivor among the 19 onboard were remote.
"There were 19 people onboard including NDRF, ITBP and IAF personnel. Eight bodies have been recovered," he told PTI.
An IAF spokesperson said in Delhi, "One Mi-17 V5 chopper on a rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath while returning from Kedarnath crashed north of Gaurikund."
Among those killed were three IAF officers, she said, adding that eight people died in the mishap.
Rudraprayag SP Varinderjeet Singh said the cause of the crash is not immediately known but chances are high that the mishap occurred due to bad weather.