For some, helping persons in distress comes naturally.

When G. Pandian saw a motorcycle parked in the middle of the road in Koyambedu, his first instinct was to move it from the way, so that it did not hinder other motorists. “Then I found that the rider was having a seizure. His wallet and mobile phone had been stolen. So I called 108 and he was taken to a hospital,” Mr. Pandian recalled.

Over a dozen such callers, who were honoured by GVK EMRI — the organisation that runs the 108 ambulance system — on Wednesday as part of Good Samaritan Day, had similar experiences.

Kancheepuram Transport Corporation bus driver E. Surendra Das was witness to a gory accident in which at least two persons died on the spot. Along the national highway leading to Bangalore, Mr. Das narrowly missed an oncoming four-wheeler, which rammed into a Cheyyar-bound Tiruvannamalai Transport Corporation bus.

“Though there were 200 passengers in the buses, no one called for help. I stopped the bus and took a mobile phone from the conductor and called 108. There were seven men in the vehicle. Three of them had not fastened their seatbelts and they died on the spot while four others were shifted to hospital,” he said.

M. Ilamathi, employed at the Basin Bridge railway yard, has called 108 four times in the past year. “A woman who was crossing the tracks lost both her legs. Another time, I called an ambulance to help a man who had a heart attack while crossing the tracks,” she recalled. She said an ambulance should be stationed near Basin Bridge to shift victims immediately.

Nafiz Ahamed, who saved a motorcyclist near Sathyam theatre in Royapettah, said he had considered taking the victim to hospital in an autorickshaw, as there was a delay in the arrival of the ambulance.

According to EMRI chief operating officer B.N. Sridhar, Chennai now has 35 ambulances. “In any hospital it takes at least 30 minutes for treatment to begin. By waiting for an ambulance you don’t really lose out, as it takes only 10 or 15 minutes for an ambulance to reach the victim,” he explained.

Some callers raised the issue of the number of details they were asked by the call centre. B. Prabhudoss, regional manager, explained that they required enough details to locate the ambulance and hospital closest to the accident spot. “Please give details about location and landmark. It takes 90 seconds to identify the nearest ambulance and another 15 minutes to reach the spot,” he added.

C. Selvaraj, principal of St. Thomas College in Koyambedu, which has a 108 club with trained NSS volunteers, was a special invitee and participated in the programme.

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