Jammu : Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel played a crucial role in getting the power supply restored to the Kashmir Valley that had plunged into darkness in subzero temperatures following heavy snowfall last weekend, an official said Tuesday.
The IAF choppers battled high velocity winds, blizzards and snow all around to drop the Power Grid personnel assigned to repair a damaged tower and lines at the Himalayan heights of 8,000 feet to 9,000 feet above sea level.
On the requisition of the state government, the IAF undertook this operation, first of its kind in restoration of power supply lines and towers in the absence of not only helipads but also any landing site because of the heavy snow. This was revealed by a defence spokesperson based in Udhampur, headquarters of the Northern Command of the Indian Army.
Narrating the sequence of events, Lt. Col. Rajesh Kalia recalled Jan 6 and 7 when the Kashmir Valley and the high mountainous terrain in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas experienced heavy snow fall, damaging towers and high-voltage lines supplying power to the valley.
Much of the power supplied to the valley comes from outside, as Kashmir does not have many power projects, barring Lower Jhelum and Uri, where the combined generation during winters is not more than 100 MWs.
As the valley shivered and the people raised voices against the massive disruption in power supply, the state government requisitioned the services of the IAF, Lt. Col Kalia said.
"The IAF took on this challenging task and carried out helicopter recce of the power lines from Ramban to Banihal. A tower near Ramsu village was identified as the damaged tower. Since there was no helipad/landing site near the tower it was decided that the repair team would be winched down from the helicopter."
"It was important that the repair team be dropped close to the tower as there was heavy snow in that region and dropping the personnel at road head would have resulted in waste of precious time in hand," he said.
The defence spokesperson said that "this was a first of its kind operation wherein the helicopter was being used to facilitate power restoration. Wing Commander Nitin Welde led the mission and Flight Lieutenant R. Nainwal assisted him as co-pilot. Squadron Leader Abhijeet Kumar was the winch operator."
The crew carried out meticulous planning and embarked on the mission. The crew displayed superior flying skills and experience to winch down the repair party at the site on Jan 8 at around 1630 hrs.
"The task was extremely difficult as there were lot of obstructions around the site and varying winds made it tougher for the crew to hover steadily. The repair party was able to do the repairs within a few hours and the power supply to entire valley was restored," Kalia said.