Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A look at Himalayan disaster relief operations through Indian Army Tweets

Indian army started a twitter service sometime in 2012., I am their follower on tweeter and important bits of information sometimes comes through. During the relief operations, which are being carried out in Himalayas for flood affected victims, army has sent stream of tweets along with pictures and videos every day, explaining the relief work that they have been doing on that day. From the tweets it is possible to imagine the vastness of this operation and the efficiency with which army is carrying it out.

It began on 17th June 2013, when first tweet appeared which said:


A Column each of Army deployed in Rudra Prayag, Govind Ghat & Hemkund Sahib, Uttrakhand today morning for #floodrelief operations.”

Since this tweet, army has been sending tweets continuously, explaining what they are doing. After a couple of days, it became impossible for me to keep track of Army operations as the operation was so enormous. I thought that it would be easy to follow up with Google earth and here is the result.

The first image shows four main areas where the army has been helping trapped people. These areas are Rishikesh-Uttarkashi-Harsil-Gangotri; Rudraprayag-Kedarnath; Joshimath-Badrinath and Dharchula-Tawaghat in Pithoragarh district. The total area covered is about 225 Km in along northeast and about 140 Km along north east: or about 32000 sq. Km spread from Nepal border to Tibet border. The Army has mobilised nearly 8,100 troops, as it simultaneously reached out to thousands of stranded people in four regions.

Over next few days, they tried everything they could. On 17th-18th June, the Army opened the road up to Uttarkashi after clearing 16 landslips. It has also opened the road up to Sonprayag in the Kedarnath region after the successful launch of a bridge across the Vasuki Ganga between Mundkatiya and Sonprayag. As many as 2,500 stranded people were evacuated from Sonprayag. In these 2 or 3 days The army manged to rescue around 11,000 people, mainly from Govindghat and Harsil and around 10,000 people were provided food and medical assistance.

Troops skilled in mountain rescue operations, including paratroopers, were heli dropped to reach out to the people stranded in isolated areas along the Kedarnath and Badrinath region as the Kedarnath shrine was totally cut off, especially the stretch between Gourikund and Sonprayag, Army's newly formed air wing performed very well and effectively with its HAL-built Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters, which can carry 10-16 people on heights of 10,000 feet. In all 11 helicopters were used and on 17th June itself 50 sorties were carried out.

The army was able to deploy 10 Specialised Mountaineering Teams in the worst-hit Kedarnath area and set up relief camps at Harsil, Joshimath, Rudraprayag and Gauchar Advanced Landing Grounds.. The Army also built a helipad at Lambaghat school at Govindghat. Since bridges on Alaknanda river were damaged efforts continued to repair the bridges over Alaknanda between Govindghat and Ghagria on Hemkund Sahib road. In Darchula sector 2 babies were even delivered by army doctors.

On 21st June the army confirmed with this tweet that

14,500 people rescued by Army in Uttarakhand #Floodrelief

This gigantic and Herculean humanitarian effort still continues as in some inaccessible pockets, people still remain trapped. Along with the tweets, army has sent number of photographs and videos, which give an idea of the stupendous work done by the Army. The army deserves full complements not only from the flood affected but all citizens of India. A great job well done!

26 June 2013