CHENNAI: People who were at the Marina Beach on Friday were treated to some almost-cinematic rescue action. In the waters were two large vessels of the Indian Navy and marine police personnel could be seen diving into the waters, rescuing victims on stretchers, as helicopters were hovering overhead. The commotion was part of the first Tsunami Simulation exercise in India held jointly by the Coast Guard, the Coastal Security Group and the Indian Navy under the safety drill conducted by NGO Survival Instincts on account of World Safety Day.
The post tsunami operation centered on a makeshift rescue base set up on the beach around 200 m away from the shoreline. “It took us eight days to set this up. In the event of a disaster, this will have to be done within an hour,” said Anoop Madhavan, founder of Survival Instincts. He pointed out that this calls for identification and coordination of groups specialising in each step of rescue to speed up the process.
The operations included three simultaneous phases including procedures within the base, shore Search and Rescue and marine safety activities. Shore SAR included locating the victim, identifying critically injured victims among them, and transporting them to the base. The base included canvas shelters with victims recovery centre, shelters, first aid posts, an advanced life support (ALS) centre, a hospital dispatch centre and a morgue.
The land rescue was undertaken by 70 members of the Emergency Rescue Teams (ERT) of various corporates in the city including Cognizant Technologies, the Taj Group of Hotels, the Park Sheraton, R R Donnelly and Nissan Motors. The 150 volunteers who served as “victims” were from Great Lakes Institute and from the NSS.
But in spite of all the training the drill was not without its hitches, for instance the deep sea rescue operation was stalled after boats couldn’t be taken out to sea due to the unusually rough waters. “None of the agencies and the fishermen would take their boats to deep waters as the waters were unusually rough. This has opened our eyes to the practical difficulty, for even during events like the tsunami, the sea is bound to be unusually rough. So it would be difficult to move to the sea in ordinary boats,” said Preetham Alex, Events Manager at Survival Instincts.
Pointing out the challenges that the rescue agencies faced during the last tsunami in 2004, CSG ADGP C Sylendra Babu, said that awareness among the public about the disasters and a clear coordination between the various agencies is a prerequisite in disaster management. “During the last tsunami, after the first tidal wave hit the coast and there was a warning for another one, we were asked to vacate people in North Tamil Nadu. But not a single person would move out of their homes. Awareness is a prerequisite,” he said.
Commodore Amar K Mahadevan, VSM - Indian Navy Officer in Charge, TN and Puducherry, pointed out that coordination between different agencies is crucial as it will help in sharing both the personnel and equipment. He lauded the effort to combine various rescue agencies and the public through the initiative, and hoped for many more such exercises.