IAF rescues 18 stranded sailors


New Delhi : Flying in low light and adverse weather conditions, two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters have daringly rescued 18 sailors, including 13 Iraqis, whose ship ran aground off the Gujarat coast, an official here said Wednesday.

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Air Headquarters here received a message from the Coast Guard at 3.30 p.m. Tuesday that a Mongolian registered vessel, MV Sea Glory, had run aground off north Gujarat and that its crew, which included five Indians, had jumped off the ship onto the adjacent marshes.

"Due to stormy conditions during high tide, the ship had drifted 25 degrees off course and came close to land. The tide then went out and the ship was stuck in shallow waters off the coast," IAF spokesman Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani said.

"At 4.30 p.m., two (Mi-17) helicopters from the Jamnagar airbase took off on a rescue mission and headed for Nallia airbase (60 km to the north), where they refuelled," Upasani added.

The helicopters were airborne from Nallia at 5.30 p.m. and headed for the stranded vessel.

"By then, the sailors had jumped off the ship onto the adjacent marshes. However, due to the unstable land conditions, the helicopters could not land," Upasani said.

"In extremely difficult conditions, with stormy wind, rains, and low sunlight, the helicopters performed a low hover and winched up the sailors," he added.

Carrying nine sailors each, the helicopters then returned to Nallia, where the seamen were handed over to Coast Guard and customs for completing the necessary formalities.

Wing Commander C. Goyal, who commands the Mi17 squadron at the Jamnagar airbase, led the rescue mission.

It was not immediately known where the ship was headed or what cargo it was carrying.