New Delhi: With cyclone Hudhud causing extensive damage to the Visakhapatnam airport, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) restored all major navigational and technical services as Air India resumed flights from there on Friday.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju met Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman and discussed the relief, rehabilitation measures and the restoration work at the airport.
AAI officials, assisted by navy and NDRF personnel, carried out restoration work of all essential navigational aids and the runway on a war-footing through last night, enabling Air India's Delhi-Hyderabad-Vizag flight to land and take off this afternoon.
An AAI official said vital navigational aids like the Instrument Landing System and Doppler Very High Frequency Radars were restored within 48 hours of the weakening of the cyclone.
The complete terminal building has been cleared of debris and water removed from there as well as the baggage conveyor belts, while the X-ray screening machines have also been made operational, he said.
The airfield was also given the Foreign Object Damage (FOD) clearance to facilitate resumption of flight operations, he said, adding that the airport was now operational.
After his meeting with Sitharaman, Raju told reporters, "We were very happy with the Prime Minister's visit. Because if you look at it, if you look at earlier, when his predecessor was there...., there was no urgency about what was happening at that particular point of time. So (now) whole orientation has changed."
Civil Aviation Ministry officials said that with Air India resuming its operations today, another nine flights by other operators may start in a day or two.
Efforts were also being made to resume immigration facilities so that the international flights may start by November one, they said.
The airport terminal building, designed to withstand wind speed up to 150 kmph, was considerably damaged in the cyclonic storm whose speed was recorded at about 180-190 kmph.
The officials said a large portion of the terminal building, including glass, roof-top covering, air-conditioning, computer system, communication systems and electrical connections, were destroyed.
After making the airfield operational for day and night operations on October 14, the navy, along with NDRF, shifted focus to assisting the AAI in getting the terminal ready for civil flight operations.
As part of Operation Lehar, the navy as the lead agency is actively coordinating with all agencies to restore the city to normalcy, the navy said in a statement.
"A multi-pronged approach through provision of relief material, clearing of debris from vital areas, food distribution and skilled assistance for restoration of vital services at airport, telephone exchange and sea port are paying rich dividends," it said.
On the request from the Visakhapatnam Port Trust, the complete hydrographic survey of the port is being undertaken by naval survey ships, the statement said.
Three IAF aircraft were scheduled to arrive today carrying about 17 tonnes of relief material. A total of 184 tonnes of relief material has been ferried by the Indian Air Force to date, it said.