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'Car Nicobar Air Force station will be fully restored in 6 months'

By Our Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JAN. 23. The Indian Air Force station on the Car Nicobar island, wrecked by tsunami waves on December 26, will be rebuilt and fully operational in six months, Air Marshal S.Y. Savur, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Air Command (SAC), has said.

He told presspersons here today that the work would begin soon and the station would be fully operational in six months. The Air Force station on the island was fully damaged. Only 5,000 feet of the 9,000-feet runway was available for operations. Twentythree persons from the IAF station were dead and 76 were missing. The normal staff strength of the station was 150.

Relief operations over

The relief operations by the IAF in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Sri Lanka and the Maldives had been completed. The operations of the SAC of the IAF, termed "Sea Waves", could be described as a record performance and were completed in the least possible time.

Braving damaged runways and cut-off communication systems, the IAF had flown 678 relief sorties using helicopter and smaller aircraft to these areas, evacuating 4,495 persons and delivering huge quantities of food and relief materials during the operations that ended on Thursday last, the Air Marshal said.

Reacting to criticism from certain quarters about the IAF's plans to airlift those stranded on the Vivekananda Rock Memorial on December 26, Air Marshal Savur said Mi-8 helicopters sent to Kanyakumari could not land on the rock as there was no space.

Though there was a plan to ``winch up'' the people, that had been abandoned due to overcrowding. However, the helicopters dropped 500 kg of food material.

Group Captain I.P. Vipin, Commanding Officer, 33 Squadron, who co-ordinated the operations in Andaman Nicobar said, when his flight reached Car Nicobar, the runway there was half covered by water and most of the remaining part, damaged. The communication system had also been affected.

Efforts in Sri Lanka

Wing Commander U.K. Sharma, Commanding Officer, 109 Helicopter Unit, and task force commander for the Sri Lanka operations, said the devastation in the island nation was far beyond anybody's imagination. Almost 75 per cent of the coastal area was damaged. The southern and eastern coasts were the worst-affected. The IAF's was the first international rescue and relief team to reach Sri Lanka soon after the disaster struck there, he said.

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