BENGALURU: Dr PRS Chetan, additional chief officer, commanding Quick Response Team (QRT), Civil Defence and his team rescued hundreds of flood victims in the State last year. These include 186 people stranded at the Hippie Islands along the Tungabhadra River.
Dr Chetan has been awarded with the President’s Civil Defence Gallantry Medal for saving several lives in 2019 in the Tungabhadra River Flood Rescue Operation. This is the first Gallantry Award to Civil Defence in the last 50 years.
Dr Chetan narrated to TNSE his experiences running rescue operations and his own near-death experience in the crocodile-infested river. “Around 200 people -- mostly foreigners -- were stranded at the Hippie Island in Virupapura Gadde. The only option was to either airlift or ferry them across the river to safety. We rescued 186 people and the rest were airlifted,” he said.
The rescue team had members from the Civil Defence (12) and the National Disaster Response Force (20). “Four of us were in a boat, which capsized. Two caught hold of a lifebuoy and floated to the shore, one caught hold of a tree and was airlifted by a helicopter. I was washed away and struggled to swim ashore for four-and-a-half hours.
Fortunately, I was wearing a life jacket, else I would have drowned within minutes. There were strong undercurrents. I couldn’t hear and my eyes started getting tired. I thought I would die when suddenly my legs got entangled in weeds. I got something to hold on to and managed to swim ashore. I blew the whistle, but no one heard it.
I was injured and my body was sore. I walked for 2km, when villagers spotted me. I was taken to the nearest hospital,” said Dr Chetan. Two days in the hospital and on August 14, 2019, he went back to work. “I faced death in those hours in the river. I would like to rescue as many people as I can. It’s my service to the country,” said Dr Chetan.