India winds up Operation Maitri

Relief materials being unloaded from a Indian Air Force's Mi-17 chopper  in quake-hit  Nepal.
Relief materials being unloaded from a Indian Air Force’s Mi-17 chopper in quake-hit Nepal.

By Anil Giri 

The final de-induction of the Indian Combined Armed Forces Task Force has marked the winding up of Operation Maitri — the biggest post-disaster operation ever launched by India outside its territory — in the earthquake-ravaged Himalayan nation.

Within six hours of the devastating April 25 earthquake, India was the first nation to send its search and rescue teams to Nepal with the first Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft, carrying relief material, reaching Kathmandu.

Ten National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) teams, one Army Engineering Task Force and 18 army medical units were dispatched within 24 hours.

According to the Indian embassy in Kathmandu, one IAF C-17 aircraft took off from Tribhuvan International Airport at 2.30 p.m. on Thursday taking the remaining relief team along with two ALH and three MI-13 helicopters.

After 69 Indian and seven Canadian army personnel left, the Nepal Army said there would be no foreign army presence in Nepal from Thursday.

The Indian government opted for a multi-pronged strategy to help Nepal during the crisis, sending army personnel and helicopters for search and rescue operations. India’s NDRF contributed in such efforts in various quake-hit areas while the Indian Army and Indian Air Force provided support to the Nepali government’s efforts.

Similarly, several India state governments also made generous contributions in relief distribution, including the Indian Red Cross, and provided hundreds of tonnes of relief materials to Nepal during the humanitarian crisis. India’s support to Nepal’s rescue and relief efforts was guided and monitored by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Regular meetings were held by the National Crisis Management Committee, chaired by the cabinet secretary,” the Indian embassy said.

In their over five-week-long stay in Nepal, 16 NDRF teams (over 700 personnel) were deployed in various parts of Kathmandu where hundreds of houses were damaged.

The NDRF rescued 11 people alive and retrieved 132 bodies. Seven victims were rescued alive and 22 bodies recovered during the first operation itself.

The NDRF set up medical camps at six places and treated 992 affected people and established communication link with the crisis management machinery in India. The director deneral of NDRF was deputed to Kathmandu to lead the operations.

Following the end of search and rescue operations, NDRF teams returned to India.

A task force of about 300 Indian Army officers and men led by a major general was deployed in Nepal. Similarly, an air vice marshal of the Indian Air Force was deputed to Nepal to lead and coordinate air support by about 150 officers and men of IAF for rescue and relief.

C-17, C-130, Il-76 and AN-32 aircraft of IAF conducted a total of 37 sorties to bring over 570 tonnes of relief material (food, tents, blankets, water, tarpaulins, baby food, medicine, etc.), rescue and heavy earth moving eqquipment, engineering and communications equipment, ambulances, RO plants, oxygen generators, two army field hospitals with 18 medical teams, 18 army engineering teams and 16 NDRF teams, according to the embassy.

A brigadier of the Indian Army was deputed to Pokhara where the Indian Army’s Pension Paying Office was involved in seamless coordination with Nepal Army and local authorities to reach rescue and relief to the areas closest to the epicentre.

Mi-17 and Advanced Light Helicopters of the Indian Army and crew were put at the disposal of the Nepal Army for rescue and relief. They performed over 1,679 sorties, evacuated over 993 people — mostly Nepalese and foreigners, inducted over 1,689 Nepal Army troops, carried over 4,963 passengers — out of which about 500 were Indians, and airlifted close to 770 tonnes of stores.

The Indian Army helped foreign military and other teams to induct, de-induct and evacuate, including those of the US, China, France, Singapore, and UN Disaster Assessment and Coordiantion (Undac).

The Indian Army deployed 18 medical teams. Its two field hospitals in Lagankhel (45-bedded) and Sinamangal, two medical teams at Barpak, one team each at Sinamangal, Gorkha and later Dhading attended to 4,174 patients in OPD, performed over 300 surgeries, attended to 214 admit cases and discharged over 115 patients, said the embassy,

It also stated that over 14,000 tonnes of relief material were received from India by 2,000 trucks.