Relentless rescue efforts by IAF continues for fourth day at Leh

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Leh, Aug 9 (ANI): Six Cheetah helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) undertook more than 60 sorties to evacuate 90 people from Skyu in Zanskar valley on Monday in the cloudburst-hit Leh region.

About 130 trekkers, predominantly foreigners from 12 different countries and a few Indian porters were reportedly stranded at Skyu, a location only reachable by Cheetah helicopters owing to flight through narrow constricted valley and not negotiable by the large rotor Mi-17 helicopters.

Others negotiated their way to safer places on their own.

With touchdowns not feasible at Skyu at the location that had virtually transformed into a vast dissolving island where none existed earlier, the daring rescue efforts were all carried out by the pilots at low hover, a challenging flight manoeuvre of keeping the aircraft stationery, perilously close to the ground even as passengers boarded the flight.

Each Cheetah helicopter can only take in a maximum of three passengers at sea level, on board at a time.

The breakdown of the 81 foreigners rescued includes United Kingdom-17, France-17, Netherland-9, Czechoslovakia-8, Germany-7, Israel-4, Switzerland-4, Romania-4, Austrian-3, Australia-3, Italy-3 and Spain-2. Six local guides and three porters were also among those evacuated.

Three IL-76 sorties also airlifted two JCB (excavators) and one 22-Ton Bulldozer apart from 6 Ton load of BSNL equipment and 10 Ton load of Army's communication equipment including cables from Chandigarh.

Six AN-32 also flew air maintenance sorties from Chandigarh replenishing stocks and relief materials for the Army in the region.

IAF aircraft earlier on Sunday had already airlifted medical equipment, medicines and para-medical personnel to Leh from New Delhi and Chandigarh.

The death toll climbed to 147 today, while nearly 500 people, including two French nationals, remained untraceable. (ANI)

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