THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The armed forces on Sunday announced a formal end to active Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations undertaken in the flood-hit areas of the state but added that medical assistance and other forms of support will continue.
Addressing a joint press conference by the services here, Air Marshal B Suresh, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Air Command (SAC), said that the post-flood rehabilitation phase has now started, which, essentially, is the responsibility of the state government. The armed forces will continue to be there every step of the way. ''As the rehabilitation now starts, army medical teams, IAF mobile hospitals have been deployed in various regions. Kuttanad is still an area under stress. From our side we will continue to support,'' he said.
Every aspect of the relief operation will be studied in detail to learn from the lessons and emerge as a better response force, Suresh said. He declined to comment on the possibility that the simultaneous opening of dams may have caused the floods, but said it was for the government or the KSEB to say.
The armed forces have been actively supporting government's rescue and relief efforts since August 8 when they were alerted to the looming disaster. However, the inclement weather, the terrain and topography, the population density and the intensity of operations offered unique challenges. The IAF had christened its operation 'Operation Karuna,' the Navy 'Operation Madad,' army 'Operation Sahyog' and the Coast Guard 'Operation Rahat.'
This was also one of the most high-intensity relief operations undertaken by the IAF, Suresh said. ''Here everything was packed into a short span of time. But there was close coordination and cooperation from all sides. All agencies worked in unison,'' he said. On the first day, IAF flew ten sorties, but subsequently mobilised more resources including 26 helicopters. On a comparative scale this was the largest disaster-related induction exercise ever conducted in the country in terms of load wherein over 11,96,736 kgs (approx 1200 tonnes) was airlifted at short notice, IAF said.
The army had deployed, in all, 70 composite teams which included infantry, engineer task forces and medical units, Brigadier C G Arun, Commander, Pangode Military Station, said. ''The troops have opened roads, cleared landslides and constructed temporary bridges utilising the natural resources available in the area. So far approximately 26 temporary bridges have been constructed/repaired and approximately 50 roads have been opened/cleared for the general public,'' Arun said. According to the army, almost 15000 people stranded in various parts of flood-affected areas have been rescued by the troops of Southern Army Command. This includes victims in Kodagu district in Karnataka.
The Navy, operating out of the Southern Naval Command (SNC), Kochi, operated 20 aircraft, Commander S Sanooj said. This was also the largest ever HADR operation undertaken by the SNC, with 16,843 persons having been rescued, of which 15670 were by boat, while 1173 had to be airlifted. As many as 13 Coast Guard ships and seven bases were actively involved in the Coast Guard operations during the floods, Commandant V K Varghese said. The agency deployed 36 rescue teams and opened 17 medical camps. ''177.7 tonnes of relief materials were provided and 35 tonnes are in transit,'' he said.