NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A private helicopter returning from delivering aid to survivors of floods in India’s Himalayas crashed on Wednesday, killing the pilot and co-pilot, Indian Air Force sources said.
The helicopter, which was owned by Trans Bharat Aviation, was the third to crash in the relief operation under way since flash floods devastated the northern state of Uttarakhand last month.
“The chopper had delivered relief supplies and been stuck in Kedarnath due to bad weather since last night. It took off this morning but crashed in a place called Garud Chetti,” a source with the Indian Air Force stationed in the area said by phone. There were no passengers on board, he added.
Bad weather, narrow valleys and steep mountainous terrain have made it difficult to deliver supplies of aid such as flour, rice and lentils by air to tens of thousands of people in remote villages, cut off by flood damage to local roads.
Last month two helicopters crashed in rescue and relief operations, including an Indian Air Force helicopter which went down near the Himalayan town of Gaurikund, killing the 20 service personnel on board.
The Mi-17 was returning after delivering logs for a mass cremation of corpses found under debris left by the flooding.
The mountainous terrain and damaged roads mean much of the massive relief operation is being conducted by air, with the Indian air force and a few private helicopters evacuating survivors and delivering sacks of food to makeshift helipads.
At the peak of the response, the Indian Air Force deployed more than 40 helicopters, air-lifting more than 20,000 people to safety. It has also transported over 500 tonnes of aid over the past month.