UK spent £3m on quake rescue Chinooks for Nepal

  • The helicopters were returned from an air base in Chandigarh without even flying one mission

Kathmandu, January 22

The United Kingdom spent £3 million on three military helicopters that it sent for rescue mission in Nepal after the devastating April 25 earthquake but failed to secure clearances from the Nepali authorities, according to the United Kingdom’s National Audit Office.

Nepal did not give flight permission to the Royal Air Force Chinooks — apparently due to the fear that the Chinooks would damage unstable buildings. After remaining in an air base in Chandigarh of neighbouring India for about a month, the military air vessels flew back to the United Kingdom in the last week of May.

Many observers believed that Nepal did not allow the UK military to take part in the rescue mission to express its anger over the arrest and prosecution of Nepal Army’s Col Kumar Lama in London. Visiting British Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening on May 20 had pushed the Nepali authorities to allow the Chinook helicopters to carry out relief distribution missions in Nepal, but to no avail.

According to the National Audit Office’s report published on Thursday, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development had asked for and used two military aircraft from the Ministry of Defence for Nepal rescue mission. The concerned authorities then decided that three military helicopters should also be deployed to provide additional support.

“The government was unable to get necessary clearances for the military helicopters to land in Nepal and they were diverted to India, where they could not aid the relief effort,” the report said.

“The total marginal cost to the Ministry of Defence for its support was £3.9 million, of which £3 million was for the military helicopters,” the report added.

The cost, which was earlier borne by the Ministry of Defence, was billed to DFID, according to the report. “The department’s budget will be decreased by £3.9 million and the Ministry of Defence’s increased by the same amount.”