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PHOTOS: IAF rescues 2,000 people in snow-slammed Kashmir

Last updated on: January 23, 2012 14:49 IST

IAF rescues 2,000 people in snow-slammed Kashmir

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A Ganesh Nadar

On Saturday, January 21, the Indian Air Force rescued 2,000 people marooned in snow-bound Jammu and Kashmir.

Rediff.com finds out how the IAF managed one of the biggest evacuations in recent times.

Almost unnoticed by the national media, the Indian Air Force on Saturday battled harsh weather to rescue civilians and defence personnel stranded in Jammu and Kashmir.

With heavy snowfall blocking highways in India's northernmost state, the IAF flew two sorties to fly out the stranded Indians to safety.

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Image: Rescued civilians disembark from the IAF's AN-32 relief aircraft
Photographs: Defence PRO, Jammu
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The IAF airlift began early on Saturday morning and went on till well past midnight.

"We worked in bitter cold conditions, but made sure everyone came back to their homes," Air Commodore Nitin Sathe, the station commander of the IAF's Jammu air base, told Rediff.com

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Image: Army personnel boarding the IL-76 transpost aircraft
Photographs: Defence PRO, Jammu

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IAF rescues 2,000 lives in snow-slammed Kashmir

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In all, 554 defence personnel and 395 civilians were airlifted from Jammu to Srinagar.

Another 843 civilians and 238 soldiers were flown from Srinagar to Jammu.

"The smile on the faces of the rescued passengers was a reward in itself for the IAF," Air Commodore Sathe added.

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Image: Defence personnel help a handicapped civilian disembark at Jammu air base
Photographs: Defence PRO, Jammu

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Two IAF aircraft -- an AN-32 and an IL 76 -- were called in from Chandigarh for the rescue operations.

Jammu and Kashmir has been hit by heavy snowfall for two weeks; some parts of the state have seen temperatures dip as low as minus 16 degrees Celsius.

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Image: Civilians wait to be airlifted at the Jammu air base
Photographs: Defence PRO, Jammu
Tags: IAF , AN-32 , Kashmir , Jammu

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Earlier last week, the state government requisitioned IAF helicopters to ferry passengers stranded for 10 days at Jammu and Srinagar, due to the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

The IAF's CONDORS helicopter unit at Jammu then launched a major air rescue and relief operation in the snow-hit areas of the state.

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Image: All smiles: Rescued tourists exit the runway at the Jammu air base
Photographs: Defence PRO, Jammu
Tags: IAF , CONDORS , Jammu , Kashmir

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Among the hundreds evacuated on Saturday were labourers working in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Image: A Kashmiri family at the Jammu air base
Photographs: Defence PRO, Jammu
Tags: IAF , Kashmir , Jammu

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Heavy snowfall is expected over the next few days.

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Image: Kashmiris waiting to be rescued
Photographs: Defence PRO, Jammu
Tags: IAF , Kashmir

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Last month, the power grid in the Kashmir valley had collapsed, triggering protests in the state.

With road access to the major transmission lines in the Pir Panchal ranges and several grid stations blocked by snow, the IAF came to the rescue of the Omar Abdullah-led government in Jammu and Kashmir by flying in electricity department workers.

The power lines were repaired and electricity was restored to the valley.

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Image: Rescued civilians inside the IAF AN-32 aircraft
Photographs: Defence PRO, Jammu

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Over 3,100 vehicles stranded for the past week due to heavy snowfall and landslides left Srinagar for Jammu as the authorities allowed one-way traffic movement on the 300 km Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, the police said.

The vehicles, mostly trucks and tankers, were stranded at various parts of the highway including Banihal, Ramban, Patnitop, Udhampur and Nagrota areas in Jammu.

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Image: Rescued civilians disembark on arrival at the Jammu air base
Photographs: Defence PRO, Jammu

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The highway, the only surface link to Kashmir, was closed on January 13 due to landslides, reopened for one way-traffic on January 14 for a brief period.

It was again closed due to heavy snowfall, avalanches and landslides on January 15 and reopened for one-way traffic briefly on January 18.

This January, it has remained closed for almost 11 days.

Traffic on the Batote-Doda-Kishtwar route was allowed on Sunday after remaining disrupted for 13 days in view of snowfall at various places.

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Image: A truck clears snow on the closed Srinagar-Jammu highway in Lower Munda, 85 km south of Srinagar
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
Tags: IAF , PHOTO , Kashmir , MORE

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