With warning of rainfall in the next two days in flood-hit Uttarakhand, IAF today pressed into service C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, which are customised for covert special operations and are capable of landing at makeshift and short runways, to evacuate stranded people from the state.
The Army has deployed around 10,000 personnel for the rescue operations in the state, while IAF has deployed more than 50 choppers and fixed wing aircraft to save people stuck there for over five days now.
IAF has so far flown around 150 sorties and evacuated over 1,400 people from places, including the worst-affected Kedarnath-Gaurikund axis.
"The first C 130J aircraft landed at Dharasu (a landing ground only 1300 feet long) in the early morning today despite inclement weather. On landing, the aircraft defueled 8000 litres of fuel into an empty bowser which was airlifted yesterday from Sarsawa by a Mi 26 helicopter," a Defence Ministry release said here.
This would help IAF to augment its efforts in that region as availability of more fuel would help in seamless operations of its choppers, it said.
The C-130Js, three of which are dedicated for the rescue operations, have also been used to ferry people from Dharasu to Hindan air base near here. So far, over 300 people have been evacuated.
IAF has also inducted additional personnel to help in smooth flight operations of the over 50 choppers and fixed wing aircraft operating in the hill state.
It has also employed an Antonov-32 aircraft which will deliver engineering equipment of Border Roads Organisation to the nearest air field from where it would be airlifted by Mi-26, the world's largest helicopter, to help the road constructing body to repair roads.
The Army has also successfully evacuated all the 500 pilgrims stranded in and around Gangotri, barring 25 people stuck near Gagariya on the Hemkund axis, the defence ministry said.
"The 25 people will be evacuated at the earliest. Army troops, skilled in mountain rescue operations, have established contact with more than 1,000 people stranded in mountain folds in jungle Chatti between Gauri Kund and Rambara on the Kedarnath axis," it said.
The force created history in Badrinath valley today when a heli-bridge was created at Govind Ghat to transport pilgrims across the Alaknanda River where choppers did shuttle service from either banks of the river as the temporary crossing made earlier had collapsed.
Over nine Army helicopters have evacuated 350 people so far and search operations are on.
"Early in the morning today, Army teams worked to prepare a helipad at jungle Chatti which facilitated evacuation from one of the most dangerous and inaccessible areas of Kedar valley. This helipad is now being improved to facilitate landing of Dhruv helicopters," the ministry statement said.
Army columns have also successfully evacuated all the 45 children stranded at Pindari glacier in Bageshwar district, while search operations are on to link up with 10 to 12 people stranded at Sunderdhunga glacier.
Army has so far evacuated 18,500 people and deployed 10,000 soldiers for rescue and relief operations in the flood-ravaged state.
Meanwhile, a report from Ghaziabad said IAF has also deployed its three C130 aircraft, seven Chetaks and four Cheetah choppers to ferry people stuck in Uttarakhand.
"Makeshift advance landing ground has been constructed at Dharasu in Uttarakhand from where our plane are ferrying people. Besides, our planes are flying over flood-affected areas across the state to take people to the Dharasu landing ground," Hindon Air Force Station in-charge Air Commodore A Sabarwal said.
"After landing at the base station, victims are boarded in state roadways buses which drop them at ISBT or airport so that they could travel back to their place," he said, adding that the rescue operation will resume at 0930 hours tomorrow.