NEW DELHI: For initial 48 hours of incessant rains in Chennai, the Coast Guard could not utilise its aircraft stationed the State capital during the most ‘crucial’ period for rescue operations, as it was caught napping. All air assets of Chennai air station, including five Dornier aircrafts and two Cheetah helicopters, were completely submerged in water.
It led to grounding of the entire fleet of Chennai air base and preliminary assessment of the damage suggests that that it will take nearly six months to operationalise them. And it will cost nearly `50 crore for its repairs.
This lapse on the part of maritime security force meant that it had to call in from other air bases like Kochi, Kolkata and Bhubneswar for deploying them in relief and rescue operation in Chennai.
According sources, incessant rains on the intervening night of December 1-2 flooded the Coast Guard air base of Chennai, in which five Dornier aircraft and two Cheetah helicopters parked there were completely watered. Calling it a complete violation of Standard Operating Procedure, key officials of the Coast Guard claim that such lapse could have been prevented.
“As weather warning was issued a day in advance, these air assets should have been moved out to safe air bases like Arakoram, Bengaluru or Kochi. It is a gross violation of standard operating procedure to handle natural disaster like situation,” a senior Coast Guard officer said.
In this regard, an internal note has been sent to the ministry of defence by the Chennai office of the Indian Coast Guard and probe is being ordered into the goof-up on the part of the of its air maintenance wing of the Coast Guard.
Engineers of the HAL, which manufactures and maintains these aircraft, have already inspected the loss and damage and they are believed to have given an estimate close to `50 crore for repairs and to make them airworthy.
This has cast a shadow over the exemplary work done by the defence forces in relief and rescue operations in flood-hit areas of Tamil Nadu. Thousands of people were airlifted by Coast Guard, Navy and IAF choppers involved in the search and rescue operation and food packets were air dropped to the inundated places of Chennai.