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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Pakistan Helicopters Aid Thousands After Early Cyclone Triggers Flooding

DISASTER RELIEF

Helicopters transported more than 452 tons of supplies last month as United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other nations came to Pakistan’s aid after Cyclone Yemyin and pre-monsoon-season rains triggered floods that devastated coastal and northern border regions late in June.

While the official monsoon season in Pakistan does not begin until July 14, the arrival of Yemyin June 26 triggered widespread flooding in the coastal provinces of Balochistan and Sindh. The only vegetation in those regions is along small rivers and water drains, so that is where residents concentrate. Flooding of those bodies contributed to the deaths of 300-500 people.

Heavy rains also hit Pakistan’s northernmost North-West Frontier province. Close to the Afghanistan border, for instance, the town of Landi Kotal in Khyber suffered heavy damage to houses and key infrastructure.

Pakistan’s military forces positioned helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft at forward bases as close as possible to flood-prone areas on June 26. But the widespread rains and poor visibility hampered their ability to reach the affected areas. On June 28, aircraft began moving into those areas. Two relief centers were set up in the Balochistan towns of Pasni and Turbat, which were centrally located to the most affected areas. Pakistan air force C-130 flew relief supplies into these centers. From there, military helicopters, including 28 army helicopters (Kazan Helicopter Mi-17s, Eurocopter Pumas, and Bell Helicopter 412s) flew the supplies to the flood victims. They flew more than 525 sorties, flying 8-9 hr a day. Despite the extreme heat, which hovered around 100F (38C), the helicopters performed well, said a Pakistani official.

Aid distribution began in Balochistan’s Chagai province, where heavy rains destroyed houses and compound walls in refugee camps. Tents, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, quilts, and kitchen sets were provided. As the water subsided, roads were re-established and helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were put on standby, said Lt. Gen. Farooq Ahmed Kahn, chairman of Pakistan’s disaster relief commission. Pre-positioned supplies aided in the relief effort. In all, 1,600 tents, more than 3,000 plastic sheets, 5,000 sleeping mats, and 3,000 5-gal water cans were distributed in Balochistan.

Sohail Ekram Siddiqui in Rawalpindi Cantonment, Pakistan contributed to this report.

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