Six IDF helicopters were launched this week by the Israeli Air Force to rescue civilians from the floods in the Arava region following heavy rains and storms in the South.
The first helicopter from Squadron 118, based in Tel Nof, was launched around 6 p.m. The squadron commander spoke about a phone call received from the rescue unit in Arava. "We have a long-standing connection, we were told that there was an incident developing, a vehicle with boys in Nahal Paran. A few minutes later we were launched. This is really not a normal day, and there are challenges in the rescue."
IDF Unit 669 participates in the rescues
The first helicopter that was launched for the rescue mission was piloted by Major .M. and transported a crew of the IDF's rescue unit 669.
"We were on standby in the squadron, we knew there were floods in the south and we set off to rescue the boys from the vehicle. It was a long flight, with lightning storms, darkness, rain, flying slowly, not in a straight line like we are used to in order to get around the clouds. It's a challenge."
Flying south, they debated whether to land en route because of the difficult weather conditions. "We decided to continue the flight because the mission is extremely important. We arrived and the picture was not starting to clear up but got more complicated and we heard about more incidents."
The first rescue took place in Nahal Tzihor. "We arrived at the river, searched and found a vehicle, not knowing what was inside it, we flew slowly and got an old man and four children out of there. They were driving and the vehicle just drifted off the road a kilometer and a half into the creek and got stuck in the middle of the creek."
The pilot described the rescue operations carried out by the 669 unit. "A fighter went down with a rope at a height of 20 meters after the helicopter could not land because everything moved from the flood and the wind. The rescuers were put into the belly of the helicopter, and with them, we continued to the next event which was a complex rescue with a crane. Darkness, a flowing stream, rain, that's something we know how to do but it raises the level of difficulty."
Pilots found on the scene of the second and more complex incident, 10 civilians who were standing atop a vehicle and were rescued. "It was a very long mission, we were there until we ran out of gas. We flew to Ovda base, refueled and returned. In total, there were more than ten search areas. I don't remember flying in such weather conditions."
The first two helicopters' crews included two airborne mechanics on reserve duty. The squadron commander emphasized that during the operations, it was decided to call up reserve pilots who came from their homes without any hesitation because of recent events and they took off to continue the rescue missions in the Arava region.