KUANTAN, Dec 6 — It just takes 15 minutes for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) to commission a helicopter to fly to flood-stricken areas to rescue victims or deliver food supplies and other essential items to them.
The RMAF air base, here — where the 10th Squadron is based — saw a flurry of activity recently when a simulation exercise was carried out to test the readiness of its operations control centre that has been tasked with coordinating the dispatch of helicopters to flooded areas in Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan rendered inaccessible by road or water.
“Currently, we have placed two EC725 helicopters on standby at our air base,” said Kuantan Air Base commander Brigadier General Datuk Noor Mohamad Akmar Mohd Dom.
The operations control centre is open round-the-clock and manned by 36 officers and staff at any given time, he said after the simulation exercise for “Operasi Murni”, the code name for this year’s rescue operations in the east coast.
Pahang has not been hit by floods as yet. However, the centre, which was opened a month ago, is monitoring the situation in Terengganu and Kelantan.
Flood situation being monitored
“We are just waiting for the signal to activate our operations centre,” said Noor Mohamad Akmar, adding that RMAF would supervise the deployment of the helicopters based on requests from the respective state flood control operations centre.
“The state flood control operations centre will assess the areas that have to be given priority for the helicopter service, whether it is for delivering supplies or rescuing flood victims,” he explained.
The RMAF operations control centre, here is equipped with computers that can receive satellite images from the Department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia to help the staff monitor the areas affected by floods.
In areas where the helicopters cannot land, the crew will make use of a winch to drop the packages containing food and other supplies to the flood victims.
Coordinated deployment of air assets
Noor Mohamad Akmar added that “Operasi Murni” would also see the RMAF operations control centre, here coordinating the deployment of helicopters belonging to other agencies such as the Royal Malaysian Police, Malaysian Civil Defence Force, Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia, as well as the private sector.
However, he said, if the operations need to be carried out at night, only the RMAF helicopters would be utilised as “we have the assets to do so (carry out night operations)”.
He said the coordinated deployment of air assets would lead to more organised operations, as well as do away with wasteful expenditure, as was the case when Manik Urai in Kelantan faced serious floods in 2014.
“The Manik Urai experience taught us some useful lessons. At that time, the people panicked and called various agencies for help. They (agencies) sent their helicopters there, creating a situation where we had a few helicopters in the airspace at the same time.”
With the RMAF operations control centre now coordinating such efforts, helicopters would be deployed systematically to critical areas in need of air rescue missions.
The RMAF air base in Kuantan is also serving as a collection centre for food items, clothes and other aid extended by the Social Welfare Department or donated by the public for delivery to the flood victims. — Bernama