VELLORE: Not many in Tamil Nadu know that the River Koundinya flows into Vellore from Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh. But, 55-yearold Ellammal knew it like the back of her hand. She and her husband Muniappan earned a living raising pigs on the riverbed.
Their simple dwelling stands by the river bank, in Ponnampatti village. The parched river bed was a good place to graze the pigs, until Thursday night when the river was reborn, thanks to cyclone Nivar. On Thursday evening, Ellammal was grazing the pigs all alone, while Muniappan had gone to fetch them some food.
Thanks to the copious rainfall, water level started rising rapidly in the river, leaving Ellammal marooned on a sand dune. It was getting dark, and water kept rising. Ellammal was right there, on a tiny dry patch, amid a gushing river. She seemed to be waiting forever, hoping her husband would fetch help. He did. The revenue department officials alerted fire and rescue personnel, but they failed to rescue her.
Then, the collector intervened and called in the National Disaster Response Force. The lighting was poor, so the team used a drone to survey the area. Locating her was the biggest challenge. Once that was done, the team swung into action. With the help of firemen, some long ropes, and an inflated boat, she was rescued. “If not for these men, I don’t know what would have happened,” says Ellammal.