AMARAVATI: As he lowered a COVID-19 patient from the third floor of the converted coronavirus care centre on his shoulders and down a steel ladder in the rescue effort, the firemans eyes watered, overcome with emotion.
It was not a usual rescue operation that the fireman was engaged in, along with 39 of his colleagues, as they were handling persons inflicted with a deadly virus but the mission had to be accomplished at any cost.
"On the one hand, it gave me immense satisfaction that I was doing my duty by rescuing people caught in a fire accident. On the other, there was a lurking fear of contracting the deadly disease as I too have a family back home," the fireman said in an emotion-choked voice.
It was a moving scene as the AP Disaster Response and Fire Services personnel rescued 32 people from the blaze in a star hotel-turned-COVID care centre in Vijayawada at dawn on Sunday.
The firemen were at the scene of the mishap in just four minutes after they received the distress call at 5.09 am.
As many as 40 firemen descended on the star hotel which was a virtual death trap with no proper fire safety measures and began the rescue operation.
Five top-ranking officials of the department supervised the operation.
Minutes later, Vijayawada Commissioner of Police B Srinivasulu led his men into the hotel and joined hands with the fire personnel.
"The fire services personnel did a tremendous job. Not only did they carry trapped persons on their shoulders to safety, but they also retrieved the bodies of the deceased. It was an exemplary job, given the high-risk situation, Srinivasulu remarked. The operation was completed in just about three hours.
"By 8 am we completed everything, including shifting the bodies," Srinivasulu added.
Director General of AP Disaster Response and Fire Services Department Md Ahsan Raza, while commending his men on their valour, said they would be suitably rewarded.
"The hotel is a major fire hazard, with no proper exit points. It was a very difficult operation, but our men carried it out well," Raza told PTI.
As a precautionary measure against COVID-19, all the personnel involved in the operation were being isolated.
Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, Home Minister M Sucharita and other ministers commended the fire personnel over this.