CHENNAI: They have been working non-stop since Deepavali. Some of them have not even seen their own families for over a month now. More than any other agency engaged in battling the devastating floods, they have rescued more than 40,000 stranded people.
The task on hand was mammoth and hence over 1,100 personnel of the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services were deployed in rescue and relief operations since rains battered the city last Tuesday.
According to the fire services department rescue operations entered the fifth day on Saturday and more than 500 persons were rescued from Sadayankuppam and Burma colony near Manali in North chennai. “Sadayankuppam and areas around Manali Pudu Nagar are accessible only by boats. We also used ropes to rescue around 224 people in Burma colony,” S Syed Mohammad Shah, District Fire Officer, Chennai sub-urban division told Express reporters.
Chennai suburbs were some of the worst affected in the recent floods and the 100 firemen from Ambattur, Manali, Padi, Athipattu, Madhavaram, Tambaram fire stations were working round the clock in major rescue and relief operations in the submerged suburbs.
Three teams which came from outside were also deployed to work in the suburbs including an Emergency Response team from Virudhunagar, according to senior fire officers.
Apart from their own rubber boats and fibre boats, the fire services department also sourced boats from the fisheries and tourism departments for rescue operations.
“Majority of our strength was deployed in Sadayankuppam today,” the District Fire Officer said. He added that water was slowly drying up in Manapakkam and certain other areas in southern suburbs.
A problem the firemen face is people refusing to come out of their homes. “People ask us for food, water, blankets, candles refusing to come on our boats. With no option left, our men collect the items from private volunteers and ferry them to the public,” said a fireman.
However, the major hindrance to their rescue operations was absence of mobile services for two days. “We couldn’t contact our personnel on ground. We managed with our mikes which were charged in our vehicles. Now, with networks slowly being restored, we are more effective,” personnel in the Fire control room said.
“From rescuing critically ill patients from submerged hospitals to baling out water from electric sub-stations and other residential areas, our men have been working on the field relentlessly,” ADGP RC Kuduwala, Director, Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services told mediapersons here.
As rescue operations reach an end in the coming days, the fire personnel have their next big task cut out - dewatering the flooded roads.