When Assistant Sub Inspector Bijumon of the 10th battalion of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) landed in Chennai on December 1, the situation was already critical. Thousands of people were stranded and water levels were rising. “We got down, and minutes later, we were assigned rescue areas. I didn’t sleep for more than six hours in total over the next three days,” he recalls.
Bijumon was part of one among 50 NDRF teams that dealt with rescue ops. Before being brought to the partially-submerged metropolis, the 30-member team under the command of AC D N Singh had spent a few sleepless days in Gudur, evacuating flood victims there. With the situation in Chennai worsening, the team was rushed here.
Relaxing in the room provided to them at the corporation’s zonal office in Valasaravakkam, Bijumon and his teammates are dismissive of the hardships they faced while evacuating people who lived along the Adyar River. The number of people evacuated, however, is telling. “In three days, our team evacuated close to a thousand people from the Ramapuram area,” says Bijumon. His chief Mahala adds that the number is likely to be much more. “We really weren’t counting. We just needed to get as many people out of danger, as we possibly could.”
The job was dangerous, especially because the Adyar River was in spate, and by the time they reached, the doors of most ground floor entrances were jammed. “We broke in through the first floor windows wherever possible and helped people down onto boats,” recalls Bijumon.
“But the most difficult was a pregnant woman. She was airlifted after nearly an hour of us trying to get her out.” Bijumon and his compatriot Balasatish received word about a pregnant woman in trouble. “We had no trouble finding her. But getting her out and into the boat was tough. Her due date was near and we couldn’t get her onto the boat.” Bijumon did the second best thing he could. He went to the roof and began waving his bright orange uniform at the choppers dropping relief. When one responded, he was asked to bring the woman to the highest point on the roof — the water tank. “It was very risky but Bala and I did it. She gave birth to twins just two days later. That was the most satisfying rescue,” he concluded.