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State-owned Pawan Hans restarts services in quake-hit Sikkim

Gangtok, Sun, 23 Oct 2011 ANI

Gangtok (Sikkim), Oct. 23 (ANI): Air services of Pawan Hans Helicopter, which faced criticism and public resentment after one of its helicopter crashed into a gorge killing former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu, is likely to make its comeback in quake-hit Sikkim.


The operator had been suspended from flying its choppers in north east India following Khandu's death.


However, since September 20, two days after a 6.9 earthquake hit Sikkim, Pawan Hans helicopters have been making regular rounds to worst hit areas like Mangan, Chungthang, Lachen and Lachung for rescue and relief operations.


The helicopter service comes under the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC).


Operations Manager, Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation, Tejpal Pradhan, praised the teamwork of Pawan Hans pilots who worked round the clock in the tough task of reaching to cut off areas and bringing back people to safer places.


"We work like a team. We are very grateful to the pilots of Pawan Hans and state government specially for taking Pawan Hans heli operations during that day (earthquake) under their strata because it would have been totally chaos and impossible for us as a STDC (Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation) to cater to people's request on monitoring basis," said Pradhan on Saturday (October 22).


Pawan Hans were the only civilian helicopters tasked with aerial relief operations alongside various army choppers.


A pilot of Pawan Hans Helicopter Limited, Arun Opal, said that they were involved in rescuing people trapped in far-flung areas and providing relief packages to them as the roads have been cut off due to the earthquake.


"Everyone wanted to come back specially the workers, they wanted to come back. There were casualties. They had to be evacuated and initially we took the casualties from there, thereafter the people, those who wanted to come back, we took them. Then we also provided relief because the roads were all cut off. So, a lot of relief from here had gone there," said Opal.


Since the quake struck Sikkim, Pawan Hans helicopters have evacuated more than one thousand civilians from the quake-affected areas.


The choppers had also carried around 18 tonnes of relief material to the affected areas for over a month since then.


In Sikkim, which was the epicentre, several roads, buildings and houses were severely damaged and hundreds of people were injured due to the impact.


The government confirmed the deaths of at least 82 people, out of whom 65 fatal casualties were reported from Sikkim alone. (ANI)


Read More: Gangtok | Opa

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