It was in 2004 that the destructive tsunami waves hit the Vypeen Island. The tidal waves wreaked havoc washing away several boats, canoes and killing five people at Edavanakkad village. Many believe the damage could have been minimised if the people knew how to act in the face of a natural disaster.
And, recognising the need to equip people to tackle such emergencies, the Ernakulam Social Service Society (ESSS), an NGO under Verapoly Diocese, has sprung into action. They have successfully trained many people residing in the coastal panchayats of Elankunnathupuzha, Njarakkal and Nayarambalam. The extensive training was started in 2007.
Titson Devasy, programme coordinator, ESSS, said as a preliminary step, a District Management Committee (DMC) comprising local population, have been formed in every wards.
Once an alert is received from a source, the information is passed on by the DMC to the primary wing of the task force of disaster management team - ‘The Early Warning Team’, which would disseminate the information of a portending disaster to the people living in the coastal belt.
The chances are high that many of them would be in the middle of the sea when a disaster strikes, hence the next wing, the ‘Search and Rescue Force’ which would rush to save their lives.
“The members of this team are well-trained. If medication is needed for such people, the ‘Health Wing’ comes to the scene to give first aid and other help. The role of ‘Relief and Rehabilitation Team’ comes in the end when a disaster occurs. The team will identify vulnerable areas of possible threats and evacuation places so that they could rush to the people when the emergency arise. “When the information is disseminated to these key wings, preparations are almost complete to prevent the holocaust,” said Titson Devasy.
Johnson Kanappalli, a local, said the training was an eye opener in every sense. “When the tsunami struck, we all plunged into rescue and relief measures without even knowing from where to start. But after undergoing training, the demarcation of ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ and which task should be given more priority is clear. In 2004, there were severe water logging. As the water was too salty, it affected the foundation of many houses. Waste from septic tanks seeped into the logged water and people were clueless on how to manage the situation. All this happened as we did not know how to handle the situation,” he said.
Union Minister Vayalar Ravi inaugurated the completion of their mission on Saturday.