A flood of heroes
FISHING boats glided through flooded roads day and night, to destinations the boatmen never knew, and their fellows followed, neck-deep in water, searching for survivors in half-submerged homes.
Others combed lonely, silent lanes in dinghies and lifeboats, raising shrill, piercing cries of “Koooi!”, “Hooyi!”,”is there anybody here?” — sounds which were music to the ears of desperate victims anxiously eyeing rising water levels from terraces or behind shut doors.
Elsewhere, scenes were reminiscent of the flow of refugees from conflict zones: long lines of ashen, haggard, worried and tense men and women, old and young, toddlers and pregnant women, wading through the floodwaters on bridges and roads. They were on “safe” terrain because their rescuers had struggled to measure up to the pitiless flow of floodwaters over walls, gates, roofs and abandoned vehicles, through nooks and crannies of urban jungles and reclaimed villages, or over sodden cliffsides threatening to tumble down.
Rescuers reached out to the thousands who were trapped or stranded across Kerala, with their lifebuoys and guiding ropes, as the skies opened up and floodwaters rose and refused to recede for days.
Hundreds of Army, Navy and Air Force and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel were deployed, to work with the State Police and Fire Force to help those marooned in congested urban areas and in remote and hilly districts. Helicopters rescued stranded victims and dropped tonnes of food, water and medicines over entire localities cut off by endangered roads and bridges. Earthmovers, huge trucks, buses and houseboats were offered for service or were commandeered by district administrations. Hundreds of refugee camps were opened quickly, and a massive voluntary effort came into operation.
Fisherfolk from all parts of Kerala came in uninvited in large numbers and with their own boats, to save victims from the brink of death or desperation, cutting through raging floods of the Periyar and the Pampa.
“All sections of society took part in the rescue and relief effort, but the participation of one section will stand out in our minds. The fisherfolk who battle with the sea for a living. Thousands of them had come ready as volunteers from hamlets all along Kerala’s coast, from Vizhinjam to Munambam. They had come in the
RESIDENTS OF A HOUSING COLONY near Kampanipady in Kalamassery in Ernakulam district being rescued by fishermen on August 18.