Mumbai rail accident victims to be airlifted to hospitals in choppers

Central Railway is in talks with the Air Force to utilise their M-17 choppers to ferry accident victims to the nearest hospital; a 60X40-metre plot near Byculla Railway hospital has been ear-marked for landing

In order to provide speedy medical attention to victims of train accidents, Central Railway (CR) is planning to introduce air ambulances to ferry them to hospitals.

CR and Air Force officials have gone on joint visits to various locations in and outside Mumbai to identify plots where the helicopters could land. They have zeroed in on some open grounds, school grounds and parks.  Pic for representationCR and Air Force officials have gone on joint visits to various locations in and outside Mumbai to identify plots where the helicopters could land. They have zeroed in on some open grounds, school grounds and parks. Pic for representation

For this purpose, CR is in talks with the Indian Air Force to utilise their M-17 helicopters to airlift the victims to the nearest well-equipped hospital. This facility is especially aimed at those injured outside Mumbai and nearby suburbs, in order to bring them to city hospitals.

Each helicopter can carry 10 victims and four paramedics, and will be flown by an experienced Indian Air Force pilot. Pic/Getty Images
Each helicopter can carry 10 victims and four paramedics, and will be flown by an experienced Indian Air Force pilot. Pic/Getty Images

According to sources, CR and Air Force officials have gone on joint visits at various locations outside and in Mumbai to identify plots for landing the helicopters. Presently CR authorities have finalised a 60 metres by 40 metres plot at Nirmal Park in Byculla, which is close to their Railway Hospital.

The idea for air ambulances came in the aftermath of the Diva-Sawantwadi Passenger accident in May, when victims were stranded because they couldn’t be ferried by road or rail. File pic
The idea for air ambulances came in the aftermath of the Diva-Sawantwadi Passenger accident in May, when victims were stranded because they couldn’t be ferried by road or rail. File pic

“We have also looked at open grounds, school grounds and other parks beyond Kalyan and Panvel, from where victims can be ferried,” said the official. “The space identified here is sufficient to land the M-17 helicopter that will be manoeuvered by an expert Air Force pilot.

Victims can then be taken to the nearest government hospital for treatment,” said a CR official, on condition of anonymity. From here, the victims can be taken to other nearby hospitals and ambulances have been provided for the same. They are also looking at tying up with J J, St George, KEM , Nair hospitals and others in the vicinity.

Officials say they have taken various factors, like air funnel, wind speed and nearby obstructions into considering before choosing the land. Soon after an accident is reported, a 60x40-metres plot can be levelled for landing the helicopters near the accident sites.

The expert pilot, along with other authorities, will also determine landing feasibility. Each of these helicopters can carry 10 victims and four paramedics. Railway officials are particularly focussing on accidents occurring beyond Panvel and Kalyan, where availability of secondary and tertiary hospitals is scarce.

In case the victim toll is huge, they will be flown to secondary hospitals in Badlapur and Ambernath. But after that, if numbers continue to swell, victims will be brought to city hospitals. In Mumbai, the Harbour line is of priority, since it is a single rail line and its roads are in poor condition, making transportation of victims to hospitals a tough task.

The idea germinated after the recent Diva-Sawantwadi train accident in May this year, where passengers were stranded because there was little scope to ferry victims by road or rail.

CR has come under fire for its failure to take victims to hospitals within the golden hour, the crucial first hour after an accident during which, if medical help is provided, the chances of survival are said to increase.

Sources said primary hospitals usually take about six hours to stabilise accident victims, after which doctors can decide, with fair accuracy, the appropriate secondary or tertiary hospital to which each victim can be sent.

With health being a state subject, authorities said the new government should take quicker decisions to implement the project. They also suggested involving private hospitals to help in such accident cases, but confessed that the facilities haven’t been too forthcoming in this regard.

Official speak
“We are in talks with the Air Force for providing helicopters that would ferry accident victims. We have also conducted site inspections,” said S Sood, general manager, CR. Commander R Sinha, chief PRO, Ministry of Defence said, “These helicopters are normally used for search-and-rescue operations, apart from carrying accident victims. We will lend our support and joint visits are being carried out, in which we will look at the flying conditions as well."

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