Vinod Pallathu - saviour to those drowning in Periyar river

Vinod Pallathu, a citizen warden with fire and rescue services, never hesitates to enter water to save lives, reports Anu KuruvilLa

Published: 13th February 2022 06:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th February 2022 06:38 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

ERNAKULAM: How many will dive right into a swollen river to save a drowning person? A few maybe. To Vinod Pallathu of Thottuva, though, saving lives comes naturally. Especially of those floundering in the Periyar. To date, he has saved around 10 people from being swallowed by the depths of the river.He has also rescued more than 300 people trapped in their houses during the floods of 2014 and 2018. Vinod’s tryst with the Periyar began when he was just eight. “So I know the river, especially the stretch near my hometown, like the back of my hand,” he says.

Now 41, Vinod -- running an electrical shop in Thottuva for a living - has garnered enough expertise to be enlisted as a citizen warden with the Perumbavoor fire and rescue services unit. He says nearly all drowning deaths happen because people underestimate the river. “It might look peaceful on the surface, but underneath there are hidden traps that drag people to death.” Vinod recalls an incident from nearly 20 years ago, the first time he rescued somebody from drowning.

“A man and his three daughters, who had come to the Malayattoor church, were trying to cross the river on foot. Though the water was low, the sand on the riverbed can turn treacherous. Also, there are places where the sand acts like quicksand. The four got trapped in one of these and were struggling to get a foothold,” he says. Vinod jumped in and dragged the four to a rock jutting out of the river. 

Vinod -- who has received training in rescue operations, besides basic first aid like providing CPR, from the fire and rescue services - says many lives can be saved if those nearby know the right thing to do. “Recently, when I saved two kids from drowning, people stood watching the entire event like mere spectators,” he points out.

Accompanied by a friend, Vinod was tired after paddling rapidly against the current. After he managed to pull the second boy into their boat, he saw the boy was not breathing. “I started CPR immediately but couldn’t continue. So I shouted out to those on the shore to call the emergency services. But they just stood gawking at us. They didn’t know the number. Though I shouted out the number, they didn’t respond. So I paddled with all my strength, rushed to a house, forced them to give me their car key and took the boy to the hospital,” he says.

On rescue mode
Vinod has saved around 10 people from being swallowed by the depths of the river. He rescued over 300 people during 2014, 2018 flood


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