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UK helicopters complete major aid drop

[Pakistan] The Chinooks can distrubute 900 mt of aid in six days thanks to underslung loads and the fact the helicopters hover above the ground to take on new cargo. [Date picture taken: 11/20/2005]
The Chinooks distributed 900 mt of aid in six days thanks to underslung loads and the fact the helicopters save time by hovering above ground to take on new cargo (Ramita Navai/IRIN)

A major operation to distribute 900 mt of aid in six days has been successfully completed from the city of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir and close to the epicentre of October’s devastating regional quake.

The British Department for International Development (DfID) donated the use of three Chinook helicopters and some 90 crew from the Royal Air Force to undertake the difficult drops.

The helicopters delivered relief items to 10 distribution points in the Lipa and Neelum Valleys and managed to move an average of 165 mt of cargo a day.

With heavy snow only weeks away, aid operations have been concentrating on targeting survivors who live high in the valleys affected by the 8 October earthquake, which killed over 80,000 people and left over 3 million homeless.

“It’s a race against time in terms of weather and DfID’s very grateful it could act,” said Jacqui Gavin, a DfID logistics officer.

The huge quantity of aid distributed in such a short space of time is possible thanks to ‘underslung’ loads - relief items are carried in gigantic nets dangling below the helicopters.

Once they have delivered a load, the Chinooks return to Muzaffarabad airfield where, instead of landing, they save time by hovering less than two metres from the ground. Underneath the craft, loadmasters hook the slings, which are filled with bundles of aid, to the helicopters.

“It’s a terrific system and it works well. On average we move about 45 mt a day on the normal helicopters, in the space of a day and a half flying with Chinooks, we did five days worth,” Tony Freeman, WFP logistics officer, said.

[Pakistan] A loadmaster prepares bundles of aid in slings, ready to hook underneath a passing Chinook. [Date picture taken: 11/20/2005]

Ramita Navai/IRIN
[Pakistan] A loadmaster prepares bundles of aid in slings, ready to hook underneath a passing Chinook. [Date picture taken: 11/20/2005]...
http://www.irinnews.org/
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
[Pakistan] A loadmaster prepares bundles of aid in slings, ready to hook underneath a passing Chinook. [Date picture taken: 11/20/2005]...
A loadmaster prepares bundles of aid in slings, ready to hook underneath a passing Chinook

Before the exercise was launched, teams visited the distribution points on reconnaissance trips to ensure safety standards and to teach safety measures to workers at the drop sites.

Delivering aid in this way is speedy, but can endanger people on the ground, who sometimes rush forward to grab food after weeks without supplies.

Blankets, mattresses, tents, cooking items and shelter reconstruction kits are among the items distributed. The Chinooks dropped aid for the World Food Programme (WFP), the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Medcins Sans Frontieres Holland (MSF Holland) and Tear Fund, a UK-based relief charity.

Using the Chinooks, WFP distributed wheat flour, yellow split peas, vegetable oil and salt.

The operation also had to deal with the high altitude and weather conditions, both of which effect the efficiency of the helicopters.

“The temperature is warm during the day and this puts pressure on the engines. It means we’re only moving 7 mt when we can move up to 11,” said Mark Abrahams, support helicopter force Chief of Staff from 27 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

The helicopters have been flying up to 3,000 metres which lowers safety margins.

“To be part of the humanitarian aid effort is very rewarding,” said Abrahams. “The crew get a real sense of achievement to be able to actually put aid on the ground,” he said.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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