“The helicopters arrived [in Shovi] in about three hours – a helicopter is neither a bicycle nor a car to get in and rush out, it needs preparation – the weather was very bad, they were trying to circumvent the clouds for two hours to fly into the valley,” – the Minister of Internal Affairs Vakhtang Gomelauri thus explained the appearance of helicopters three hours after the disaster in Shovi, on August 3.
According to him, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has acquired the means of night flight, however, if there is no real threat to human life, it is not advisable for the pilots to take risks.
“The helicopters arrived [in Shovi] in about three hours – a helicopter is neither a bicycle nor a car to get in and rush out, it needs preparation – the weather was very bad, they were trying to circumvent the clouds for two hours to fly into the valley, they still managed to fly in, they worked, they managed to fly into the territory where there were 70 people, they took them to a safe place, on the other side, where on the slope there were our policemen, food, it was a safe place, and then night fell. Due to the fact that there was a danger and we didn’t want to risk it anymore, we took out the rest of these people the next day.
“As for why they didn’t fly at night? I have explained this a hundred times, everyone who knows about aviation understands very well, we have night flight facilities, we have purchased them, we can fly, but there is a very high risk, so to say, unless human life is really threatened at that moment, the pilots taking risks is not appropriate. It’s not allowed, it’s just not possible. We can get people out in three hours in the morning, and not risking crashing the helicopter or the death of the pilots.
“There is a risk factor in the mountains, it can take off at night if the weather is good. It depends on the terrain, if it is really urgent, they can take risks there too,” said Gomelauri.
As for the new helicopters that the state bought from France, according to Gomelauri, the first of them will arrive in March.
When asked about the people who remained in the disaster zone, Gomelauri claims that they were in a safe place – “there was no need to risk the lives of the pilots, the helicopter could have crashed”.
On August 3, a landslide occurred in Shovi resort in Racha, western Georgia. It is the eleventh day in the disaster zone, search operations are ongoing. At the moment, 24 people are known to have died, and the search for 9 others is still continuing.