Annual Report 2015: 2015 Gorkha earthquake response

Over 2,000 Helicopter Missions Get Support from ICIMOD Team

 Many areas hit hardest by the earthquake were remote, roadless, and reachable quickly only by helicopter. But pilots flying into the Himalayas to pick up the injured and ferry in relief supplies and medical teams had a perilous job, compounded by unseasonable rain and weather patterns and the infamously difficult flying conditions around the world’s highest mountains. 

The international community was responding generously to Nepal’s crisis, and helicopters had arrived within days from China, India, and the US to join the Nepal Army and private operators in relief and rescue missions. But many helicopters had to turn back because of dangerous conditions compounded by uncertainty, finding locations was slow and difficult, and hundreds of thousands of quake victims were at risk.

That’s where ICIMOD came in. A team of atmospheric scientists, responding to a request from the Home Ministry, set up an office at the Nepal Army hangar to support rescue and relief flight planning. Using satellite remote sensing and GIS technology, ICIMOD helped to identify and evaluate landing sites, map flight paths, and calculate load limits based  on detailed information on elevation. 

Before ICIMOD’s arrival, pilots had to make due with aerial maps that lacked enough detail; afterwards, they were receiving customized maps with 3D terrain images, destinations marked with GPS coordinates and elevations, and enough 
information about villages and terrain landmarks to help them find destinations and significantly cut down flight time.

ICIMOD experts worked dawn-to-dusk at the airport until the number of daily sorties decreased in late May, when they shared data and files with the Nepal Army and trained officials in the use of online tools to support helicopter pilots in their continuing work.

  • 98  -  Average number of  helicopter missions flown daily 
  • 2,751 - Number of sorties  flown during ICIMOD  service period