Tragedy earth-shattering, sky is the limit for them

Tragedy earth-shattering, sky is the limit for them

Sarang Helicopter Display team involved in supplying essential items to flood affected people in Kerala.

The recent Kerala floods posed equal challenges to both the victims and rescuers. The high wind speed and continuous downpour had put lives of both at risk.

However, that did not deter the 14 pilots of Sarang helicopter display team headed by wing commander Girish Komar, a native of Bagalkot, from testing the limits of themselves and of the seven machines they flew for almost five days in parts of Aluva, Chalakudy, Pulinchode, Chengannur and other areas of Kerala.

Every day, each of these pilots flew their Sarang helicopters close to high-rise buildings, coconut trees and many challenging areas from dawn to dusk rescuing hundreds of people and also airdropping essential items to the victims.

“The flood damage is unimaginable and immeasurable. There was water as far as one could see. The water had marooned houses even up to first and second floors in several areas,” said Girish speaking to DH over phone.

The continuous rains and coconut trees posed these pilots their biggest challenges including winching pregnant women, aged persons and infants to safety.

The advanced light helicopter (ALH) evaluation flights, an all-weather multi-mission capable helicopter manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bengaluru, is among the best in the business. The adverse conditions in Kerala posed a challenge to even these machines while airlifting the victims, and dropping food/medicines.

In every devastated area, one rescuer used to winch down and make sure that persons in need of eviction are secured and lifted to safety. “Assuring the victims of safety while being winched was one really tough, as one wrong move will result in bigger tragedy,” said Girish, who took several pregnant women and dialysis patients to safety.

“We had limited space in the helicopter, due to which we had to leave out the healthy people and youths behind and airlift only the needy persons. The flood situation was so grim that it would wrench anyone’s heart. But for us, it was duty and we had been trained for this,” he said.

Girish was also involved in rescuing flood victims in Navalgund (Dharwad) and Nargund (Gadag) areas in 2007. Since its inception (2003), the 151 Sarang helicopter display team has participated in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief during the Uttarakhand flash floods, Chennai, Dindigul, Tirupathi, Nellore and other disasters.