Hungry people look up to the sky, choppers confine to airport

Bhubaneswar: Even as hundreds of hungry people in marooned villages of Orissa look up to the sky expecting food packets from helicopters, three of the six helicopters were confined to Biju Patnaik airport here today.

The six choppers sent by Defence and Home Ministries were supposed to drop food packets in the flooded villages as the places were not accessible by roads and boats.

"Three choppers made 12 sorties dropping 12,300 kg of food material today at Bari in Jajpur district, Dhamnagar in Bhadrak district, Aul and Raj Kanika blocks of Kendrapara district," Special Relief Commissioner P K Mohapatra said.

Though the state government had yesterday decided to intensify air-dropping of food packets in over 1362 marooned villages, it could not use the choppers.

"Three choppers were stranded for technical reasons. When pilots say that they cannot fly a defective chopper, what can the state government do?" Mohapatra said adding he was optimistic about the operation of all the six helicopters in relief operations tomorrow.

This apart, Mohapatra said each chopper had specific flying hours for operation. "When they came to the state, some of them were left with seven to eight hours of flying time," he said.

"Even the pilot of a chopper said his facility was not fit for flying even after officials loaded food packets today," Mohapatra pointed out adding engineers from Mumbai were called to repair the choppers.

The state government had yesterday withdrawn two Navy choppers as they could not meet the requirement of relief work. However, remaining six choppers yesterday made 16 sorties to flood-hit zone, Mohapatra said.

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