In accordance with the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, a specialised team from India was rushed to Mauritius, not only to rescue people but also to extricate skimmed oil from the Japanese-owned cargo ship MV Wakashio.
Besides choppers, a 10-member technical response team from the Indian Coast Guard, equipped to deal with oil spills, was also dispatched to the southeast coast of Mauritius.
The Indian rescue team, trained to deal with such situations, was there at the behest of Mauritius government.
The technical equipment was sent via Indian Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster.
The ship was on its way from China to Brazil when it ran aground on the reef at Pointe d’Esny, Mauritius recently.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Dhruv and Chetak helicopters have played key roles in the rescue mission.
Gupal Sutar, HAL spokesperson, said that the helicopters flew non-stop, from dawn to dusk, till all survivors on board were safely rescued.
“A total of 210 cargo operations and 270 winch operations were undertaken by HAL choppers towards salvage and rescue missions so far,” Gopal Sutar said while adding that the Chetak helicopters were used primarily for winching survivors.
He further narrated that the ALHs (Dhruv) flew continuous missions to get the international salvage team onboard the ship to contain the spill.
“The HAL-made helicopters have flown 110 hours till now and rescued 600 persons from and to MV Wakashio.” He also acknowledged the contribution made by the Indian Air Force, Indian Coast Guards and Mauritius police.
The spill is close to two environmentally protected marine ecosystems and the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve. Nearby are a number of popular tourist beaches and mangrove plantations. Mauritius had declared a state of environmental emergency. A crack inside the hull of the ship expanded earlier this week leading to the ship splitting into two halves.
Official sources said that over 1,000 tonnes of fuel leaked into the water from a Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio off of Pointe d'Esny, south of Mauritius, after it hit a coral reef and broke apart on 25 July with 4,000 tonnes of fuel onboard.
The equipment material under Indian Coast Guard’s National Oil Spill-Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP) was sent over a policy decision that had been put in place in recent years to deal with oil spillage crisis within Indian sovereign waters in Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, as well as in Indian Ocean—most of which are major hotspots of oil trade in the region.
Praising Dhruv helicopters in the rescue mission, R. Madhavan, Chairman and MD of HAL, said, “Time and again, the indigenous Dhruv helicopter has proven its capabilities. Our helicopters were extensively utilised for search and rescue operations in the past as well.”
According to HAL, Dhruv is indigenously designed and developed for the military as well as civil applications. The utility version of the Dhruv helicopter can be used for VIP travel, commuter, search and rescue, emergency medical service, under slung load, disaster relief, and offshore operations. Dhruv helicopter is suitable for increased payload at higher altitudes and is in operation with all the three service wings. More than 240 helicopters are operational with the Indian Armed Forces clocking more than 2,70,000 flying hours.