In a major relief to the stranded passengers in the flood ridden Kerala, a passenger flight took off out of Kochi naval base on Monday morning, a day after a test-landing by a medium-size plane on a wet runway. The alliance air twin-turboprop ATR aircraft, which came from Bengaluru, took off again packed to capacity. An Indigo plane was the second aircraft to land at the naval base.
The flight operation came amidst rising toll in the flood affected areas of the state. Reports say that 191 people have died so far. Kerala has received the second-worst rainfall in 94 years in terms of its sheer devastating impact.
The main airport at kochi, the seventh busiest airport in the country, was shut down on august 15 and will not be re-opened till august 26.
Passengers were seen queuing up in front of a makeshift airline counter at the INS Garuda naval base. The navy said it has done substantial work at ins garuda to ensure the military facility is compatible with civilian air operations.
According to commodore R R Iyer at INS Garuda the parking bays at the naval air station have been clearly demarcated to be shared between military and civilian aircraft.
Earlier on Sunday, an alliance air plane landed at the naval base carrying a team of officers from the aviation regulator DGCA, the Airports Authority of India and other flight safety officers to test whether the base could be used for commercial flight landings. Then, the joint team gave clearance for the flight operations.
Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister for Civil Aviation said that 1part from the first incoming aircraft this morning — a 70-seater ARR plane of Alliance Air, a subsidiary of state-run carrier Air India — more airlines are likely to arrive at Kochi. Flights to other destinations such as Coimbatore and Madurai are also likely to resume shortly.
The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association or ICPA has told PM Narendra Modi that they are willing to fly to flood-hit Kerala without taking any payment.
A few trains packed with people moving away from flooded areas are running between state capital Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam, 200 km apart, a news agency reported.
Rescue teams have been working day and night to give food and medicine to people stranded in their flooded homes. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state has enough food to feed the people, but logistics is a major challenge as long stretches of key highways are flooded.
Meanwhile the weather office said heavy rain is likely to subside in the next few days in the coastal state. However, concerns over lack of water and diseases remain in the aftermath of the unprecedented floods.