Defense Ministry Explain Decision not to Deploy Helicopters in Tbilisi Flooding

The Georgian Ministry of Defense has released a statement concerning its decision not to use the “Super Puma” French helicopters for rescue purposes on the night of the Tbilisi flooding. The statement was made in response to pubic speculation that not enough had been done to save lives.

“The Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces acted with one single purpose on the night of 13 June – to prevent further casualties and ensure successful rescue operations,” the statement says. The statement also claimed that Tbilisi has a complex urban structure and lacks the appropriate warning systems that would ensure safe movement for helicopters, adding: “the buildings, electricity lines and tall trees in the disaster zones (Svanidze Street, the zoo itself and Mziuri Park areas) make the operation of helicopters impossible.”

“Utilizing helicopters in the mentioned conditions could have resulted in further loss of lives. Therefore, we properly assessed the risks and dangers. Helicopters and unmanned aircraft started monitoring efforts in the disaster-affected areas the next day,” the statement emphasizes.

Mamuka Kudava, former Ambassador to France, who was directly involved in purchasing the helicopters for Georgia also outlined why the helicopters were not deployed.

“The two newest “Pumas” - that the Interior Minister said were to be kept inactive for two entire years, were unable to operate on the night of the tragedy. The third helicopter, the so-called “Squirrel”, which is the smallest one, seen in the airport last year, would be the most flexible of the aircraft in the period of the flood considering its size and weight,” argues Kudava.

“The “Squirrel” has night vision, rescuing equipment, rope, basket and other relevant, needed tools. Under normal conditions, if trained pilots had been available, the helicopters would have been able to be utilized,” Kudava maintained, adding “this is why what happened, happened.”

However, different online sources claim that these types of helicopters are specially created to efficiently maneuver in disaster areas.

According to the last official report by the Georgian Defense Ministry, the “Super Puma” French helicopters have been conveyed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “As far as I have been informed, the “Super Puma” helicopters were transferred to the Interior Ministry. Therefore, it is up to the Ministry to decide how and when to make use of them,” Vakhtang Kapanadze, the Chief of General Staff stated at the press conference.

Zviad Adzinbaia

02 July 2015 22:34