Air Vice Marshal Upkarjit Singh, Air Officer Commanding, told PTI that the IAF has pressed into service a large number of assets, including heavylift aircraft C-17s, C-130Js, IL-76s and AN-32s, for the rescue and relief operations code-named 'Operation Rahat-II'.
Besides facing the difficulty in reaching all the people, the IAF helicopters have also encountered problems of stone pelting in some areas while rescuing people and airdropping relief material. One helicopter was hit by a stone, prompting the force to change its strategy after which choppers maintained a safe distance from the ground.
"We understand that people are angry. Even in a family, sometimes children get angry. But we are there to help out," he said. The IAF undertook rescue and relief operations in a massive scale in both Kashmir and Jammu regions since floods hit the two regions.
Narrating the scene he saw in Kashmir Valley when he undertook an aerial recce soon after being tasked to carry out rescue operations, Singh said, "When we started operations on September 7, a very large percentage of the Valley was under water... Kashmir Valley was like an ocean. We could not distinguish between Jhelum, Dal Lake and the inhabited areas. It was just one water body."
He said there was a huge "handicap" when the operations started as telecom network had broken down and "nobody could be contacted for local inputs". "So we depended on assessment based on aerial survey and whatever inputs we could get from individuals," said Singh, who is based in Udhampur in Jammu region and flew into the Valley at one-hour notice to oversee the operations.
Initial emphasis was on rescuing people who were marooned in their houses which were submerged, some of them even up to two storeys. For this, commandos were used to pick up people from rooftops, balconies and even from windows. At least 1000 people were picked up in this manner.