The Government has ordered the return of three RAF Chinooks sent to help Nepal’s aid effort after they were barred from entering the country.The heavy-lift helicopters were sent to assist in the earthquake relief effort two weeks ago but have been stranded at Chandigarh Airbase, north of Delhi.
The Nepalese Government is said to be worried the powerful aircraft will blow roofs off fragile houses or even cause them to collapse when taking off or landing.
Sky’s Defence Correspondent Alistair Bunkall said the episode had been “a shambles”.
He said of the Chinooks: “They are exactly what is needed over in Nepal. They can carry up to 70 people at a push, so they can pick people up from mountain sides, carry a lot of aid around at one go and they can fly at altitudes which is important in a mountainous country like Nepal. They would be perfect for this mission.
“They flew in the Pakistan earthquake in 2006 and the crews are very experienced but the Nepalese government said on this occasion thank you, but no thank you.”
A 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country on 25 April, killing more than 8,200 people and left thousands without shelter. A second one struck on Tuesday, killing 117 people and injuring 2,800.
Sky’s Asia Correspondent Mark Stone, who has reached the epicentre of the latest earthquake on the Nepalese-Chinese border, said the situation in Nepal was “desperate” and there was a shortage of helicopters.
He said: “There are over a thousand people perched on a mountainside in tents up the valley from their town which has been entirely destroyed. I saw boulders the size of lorries, all over the town buildings utterly destroyed.”
Earlier a source familiar with the situation told Sky News that the reality was Nepal had “overstretched” itself in the days immediately after the earthquake.
The source said: “They were overwhelmed with offers of support and said yes to everything.
“Now they’re realising they don’t have the facilities to manage it all.”
Other reports suggest that India and China are worried about foreign militaries flying close to their airspace.
The United States, however, has deployed its own heavy lift Osprey aircraft to Nepal.
The UK Government has previously said the situation is “disappointing”.
Earlier a spokesman added: “UN agencies and other NGOs have indicated that additional helicopters are needed to deliver aid to remote areas inaccessible by road and the UK has sent the most appropriate equipment to support these efforts, including three Chinook helicopters.”