IAF airlifts empty oxygen tankers, containers to filling stations across India

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New Delhi, Apr 23 (PTI) The Indian Air Force (IAF) airlifted big, empty oxygen tankers and containers to various filling stations across the country on Friday to speed up the distribution of the much-needed medical oxygen in treating COVID-19 patients.

Officials said the IAF also airlifted doctors and nursing staff from Kochi, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Bengaluru for various hospitals in Delhi, besides transporting essential medicines as well as equipment required by the designated COVID hospitals in various parts of the country.

India is struggling with a second wave of the coronavirus infection and hospitals in several states are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds in view of a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

The officials said the IAF deployed its transport aircraft C-17, C-130J, IL-76, An-32 and Avro while keeping its Chinook and Mi-17 helicopters on standby.

The defence ministry said the IAF's C-17 and IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft have started airlifting big, empty oxygen tankers from their place of use to filling stations across the country to speed up the distribution of medical oxygen.

'In addition to this, the C-17 and IL-76 have transported a large quantity of load comprising bio-safety cabinets and autoclave machines for the setting up of an additional COVID test facility at Leh (in Ladakh),' it added.

The oxygen containers will be transported by road or rail to various hospitals once they are refilled, the officials said.

Containers filled with oxygen are generally not transported on board military aircraft as they are considered combustible and may pose a risk to the planes.

The ministry said the IAF's transport aircraft and helicopter assets are on standby to be deployed at a short notice.

'Indian Air Force has swung into action by carrying out sorties from various parts of the country to airlift oxygen containers, cylinders, essential medicines, equipment required for setting up and sustaining COVID hospitals and facilities,' the ministry said in a statement.

The IAF ran several sorties to deliver medicines, medical and other essential supplies required to combat the coronavirus pandemic last year.

India recorded a single-day rise of 3.32 lakh coronavirus cases and 2,263 fatalities, according to official data released on Friday. PTI MPB RC