A flood of he­roes

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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.

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