Air Force aids evacuation

 Hours after the ghastly Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh, the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Saturday undertook night sorties to ferry injured Congress workers and former union minister V C Shukla from Jagdalpur to Raipur for better medical care.

The night flying by IAF's Mi-17 choppers from Jagdalpur was a risky operation because Jagdalpur has no facility to take off at night. Even day operation is tough because of the bare minimum facilities, said an IAF official.

The first set of casualties was received around 7.05 pm at Jagdalpur, and the helicopter took off at 7.15 pm to take them to Raipur.

The other two helicopters ferried the casualties by night and landed at Raipur past midnight, with the third chopper bringing 84-year-old Shukla, who was critically injured in the attack, having sustained three bullet hits. The Congress veteran was subsequently taken to a hospital in Gurgaon in an air taxi. The IAF had ferried 11 casualties and nine attendants.

The service has a detachment of five Mi-17 helicopters at Chhattishgarh, supporting paramilitary operations, during which it had been attacked by Maoists in the past. There are three IAF helicopters at Jagdalpur and two in Raipur.

The aircraft had been repositioned at Jagdalpur on Sunday to evacuate more casualties and carry the mortal remains of the slain leaders. With VIPs rushing to Chhattisgarh, the ferries between Raipur and Jagdalpur continued throughout the day.

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