Government asks Air India, Pawan Hans to assist in Uttarakhand relief efforts

New Delhi, June 21 (IANS) The government Friday directed state-run passenger carriers Air India and Pawan Hans Helicopters (PHHL) to render all assistance to the Uttarakhand government in the search and rescue operations going on in the flood-affected areas of the hill state.

According to the civil aviation ministry, Air India has been directed to operate additional flights from Dehradun to bring stranded pilgrims and to offer concessional fares to the affected people.

Pawan Hans has been directed to deploy additional choppers in the rescue operations in coordination with the state government.

The chopper operator has already deployed three helicopters in the rescue operations. The company can deploy more choppers from its other sectors in assisting search and rescue operations.

PHHL used to operate charter services to Kedarnath by a five-seater Bell chopper from several links, including Dehradun heliport.

Apart from civilian efforts, the Indian Air Force has deployed 43 choppers in the relief and rescue efforts. It has also deployed its Mi-26 choppers, the largest and most powerful helicopter in the world, to augment the operations.

The Indian Air Force is currently the largest and principal provider of air services for the rescue efforts. Other privately-owned choppers have also been pressed into service.

According to officials, more than 200 people have been killed and around 60,000 are stranded in the hill state that was hit by torrential rains, flash floods and cloud bursts over last weekend.

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