Kerala floods 2019: Fishermen get ready for another rescue act

People from the fishing villages in both Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts were at the forefront of the rescue mission.
Praveen (Lalu), Ilango, Johnson, Chritadima and Leaser with their boat Avenger at Mariyanadu in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.
Praveen (Lalu), Ilango, Johnson, Chritadima and Leaser with their boat Avenger at Mariyanadu in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Fishermen who earned the sobriquet Kerala’s Own Army, for their timely rescue operations during last year’s flood, get ready for a repeat as the state stares at a similar situation.

Suresh Robert was the first person from Poonthura to volunteer for the rescue mission last year. “I was attending the mass at my church when I heard the priest talk about volunteers needed for rescue work. I was the first one to enlist and I was apprehensive what my wife would say,” said Suresh, who is a survivor of Ockhi cyclone that devastated the southern coast of the state. But he received wholehearted support from the family and neighbours who helped him pack things for the mission.

Eighty-seven boats from the Poonthura coast were ready for the mission. But only 27 boats were taken due to non-availability of trucks for transportation. Suresh’s boat, named St Thomas, was one of them that went to Thakazhi in Alappuzha. In three days, Suresh and his team managed to rescue 350 people from inaccessible locations. “We even saved a goat as its owner pleaded that it was all he was left with. The boat was crowded, but we could not ignore the goat owner’s plea,” said Suresh.

People from the fishing villages such as Kollamkode, Paruthiyoor, Poovar, Pulluvila, Adimalthura, Vizhinjam, Poonthura, Thumba, Mariyanadu and Anchuthengu in Thiruvananthapuram district, and Neendakara, Sakthikulangara, Azheekkal, Vadi, Pallithottam, Puthanthura and Moothakara in Kollam district were in the forefront of the rescue mission.

The goodwill the fishermen earned for the mission has fortified their resolve to plunge into the mission once again.

Twenty-eight-year old Praveen, alias Lalu, along with his friends at Mariyanadu in Thiruvananthapuram had another check on their boat, Avenger, on Friday. He has been told informally to be alert for rescue operation. They took Avenger to the bylanes of Chengannur and Pandalam to rescue close to 260 people last year.

Last year, he went with his friends on their own for the rescue mission. “Rescuing a child barely a year old by crossing the Pampa river in full spate is still fresh in my memory,” said Lalu. Fishermen such as Lalu and Suresh rescued at least 65,000 people. As many as 952 fishing boats and more than 4,500 fishermen were involved in the mission. Both Lalu and Suresh are members of the Sea Rescue Squad (SRS) set up in the aftermath of Ockhi disaster. Each squad consists of one boat and three men.

They rescue over 4,000 rescued

  • Exactly a year after the 2018 floods, Kerala’s own army - the fisherfolk -  have once again set out for the flood-hit areas to render the yeoman service, but this time in a well-coordinated way. The state Fisheries Department is coordinating the rescue operations in the flood-affected districts along with the fishermen from several coastal areas. As of now, the rescue team has saved as many as 4,326 lives. The rescue operation is being carried out in the boats of the Fisheries Department and in the vessels of the fishermen. The department has deployed as many as 397 boats for the rescue operation, of which 210 boats have conducted the rescue operation on Saturday.
  • In Kannur district, the rescue team has saved the lives of as many as 1,722 people from various flood-affected areas. Similarly, 1,375 from Kozhikode district, 1,028 from Malappuram district and a total of 201 people from Wayanad, Thrissur, Kasaragod and Palakkad were rescued by the team.

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