The Indian Air Force on Friday airlifted nine empty oxygen tankers from Telangana to Odisha amid a severe crisis precipitated by the second wave of the pandemic, The Hindu reported. Around 150 metric tonnes of oxygen will be brought in to Telangana using these tankers.

Officials told the newspaper that it will take more than three days for a two-way journey from Hyderabad to Angul in Odisha, where the plant is located. The decision to airlift tankers was taken to save time. The tankers will return by road by April 27 after covering a journey of 1,058 kms.

On Friday morning, Telangana Health Minister Eatala Rajender, Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar, and the Drug Control Administration Director Preeti Meena oversaw the operation to airlift tankers at the old airport in Hyderabad.

The chief minister’s office in a statement said that two C-17 aircraft of the Indian Air Force was used for the purpose.

Earlier in the day, the Indian Air Force also airlifted three empty oxygen containers to Panagarh in West Bengal from Uttar Pradesh’s Hindon base. “Similar airlift tasks are underway across the country,” it said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, the Railway Board chairperson said the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi has requested for some “Oxygen Express” trains. “We have asked them to keep trucks ready,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his meeting with chief ministers of 11 states and Union Territories on Friday said that the central government was working on all possible options to reduce the travel time of oxygen tankers. “For this, Railways has started Oxygen Express,” his office said in a statement. “Empty oxygen tankers are also being transported by the Air Force to reduce one way travel time.”

On Thursday, a special train carrying liquid medical oxygen made its first journey from Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam to Maharashtra. Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted a video of the train preparing to leave the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam facility in Visakhapatnam.

Oxygen crisis

The country’s healthcare system has collapsed under the strain of the surge of daily coronavirus cases. Several states are experiencing crippling shortages of oxygen and other critical equipment. As per an analysis by, India’s daily requirement of medical oxygen is currently more than double the amount that has been exempted from industrial use – 4,600 metric tonnes. And the country may run out of stocks in a few weeks even if all industrial oxygen is diverted to medical use.

In the Capital city of Delhi, private hospitals are knocking on the doors of the High Court, desperately pleading for oxygen supplies as stocks run dangerously low. Several facilities have warned they only had supplies worth a few hours left.

On Thursday, the High Court had directed the Centre to ensure that oxygen supplies and its transportation remained undisrupted. It asked the government to provide adequate security to the transporting vehicles and create special corridors.

Hours before that, the Centre had ordered that no restrictions should be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also asked state governments to “come down heavily” on those who are hoarding oxygen used to treat coronavirus patients as several states faced shortages.