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Monday, June 1, 2015

Vertical Lift Aids Quake Survivors

U.S. disaster relief officials board an Indian Air Force Dhruv in Kathmandu May 5. Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Isaac Ibarra

Domestic and international vertical-lift aircraft spent last month bringing supplies and support to survivors of a massive April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks in Nepal. The temblors killed more than 8,000 and left much of that nation devastated.

Nepal’s small fleet of commercial helicopters, like those of Simrik Air, quickly went to work. They first rescued climbers stranded on Mount Everest by a quake-triggered avalanche and then worked in survivor-relief roles under the national government’s direction.

Other nations dispatched aid to the country, including 65 rescue teams and 30 medical teams. Those sending aid included Bangladesh, China, India, Israel, Japan, Maldives, Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S.

The United Nation’s World Food Program brought two Mil Mi-8 in for the relief efforts.

India’s military sent Mil Mi-17s and Hindustan Aeronautics Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city. The epicenter of the magnitude 7.8 quake was within 100 miles west-northwest of Kathmandu.

The U.S. sent four Marine Corps Bell-Boeing MV-22s and three Bell Helicopter UH-1Ys to the relief effort under the auspices of Joint Task Force 505, which had been set up before the quake to support humanitarian relief efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. The V-22s are from Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 262 (VMM-262) out of MCAS Futenma on Okinawa, Japan. The UH-1Ys, assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 (HMLA-469), were transported from Futenma by U.S. Air Force Boeing C-17. (The UH-1Ys’ home station is MCAS Miramar, Calif.) Two KC-130s from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 (VMGR-152) out of MCAS Iwakuni, Japan joined the deployment.

The U.K. also dispatched three Royal Air Force Boeing CH-47s, but the C-17 transporting the disassembled Chinooks were staged in Delhi, India after Nepalese officials closed Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport to large aircraft May 3. They had discovered quake damage to its only runway. The helicopters were reassembled in Delhi.

The Chinooks remained in Delhi for a week, until Nepalese officials said they were not needed (despite ongoing calls from U.N. officials and others for additional helicopter support for relief efforts). The reasons were unclear; one Nepalese official told the media there was concern downwash from the Chinooks would further damage buildings in the quake zone.

U.S. disaster relief officials board an Indian Air Force Dhruv in Kathmandu May 5. Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Isaac Ibarra

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