Earlier, National Disaster Response Force expressed its inability to carry out the operation
Four men, including three coracle operators, who climbed on to trees to escape strong currents in the Cauvery here on Sunday were rescued on Monday morning by Indian Air Force personnel who arrived in two helicopters from the Sulur Air Base near Coimbatore.
The IAF’s help was requested by the district administration after the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) could not carry out the rescue operations. The NDRF team, headed by Chief Commandant Banvir Singh, arrived around 1 a.m. But it expressed its inability to involve in rescue operations due to a strong current in the river and also because the special boat they brought could not be operated because of rocks.
After that, the district administration sought the help of the Indian Air Force Base in Sulur as per the directions of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
The IAF teams reached Hogenakkal around 7.15 a.m. and hovered over the river for some time to locate the stranded men in the trees. On sighting them, the teams went to work and finished the task around 8.35 a.m.
On Sunday, C. Madhappan (56) of Sellankottai was the first one to experience the fury of the river. While being washed away, he managed to grab a small branch of a tree to haul himself up and then climbed it to stay safe.
G. Muthu, M. Ramakrishnan and R. Sahadeven set out in a coracle to save Madhappan. But, the current was so strong that their coracle was heading towards the main falls. They jumped into the river and managed to get on to a tree.
Madhappan was rescued on Monday as the IAF teams found it difficult to locate him as he was stuck in a dense portion of the tree.
All the four were dropped at the Panchayat Union Middle School in Ootamalai. Immediately, they were shifted to the Government Headquarter’s Hospital at Pennagaram for first aid in a 108 ambulance kept ready.
Inspector General of Police (West Zone) Davidson Devasirvatham, Deputy Inspector General (Salem Range) Sanjay Kumar, Dharmapuri Collector K. Vivekanandan and Superintendent of Police Asra Garg were at the river from Sunday till the rescue was completed.
The Collector and the SP spoke through a public address system periodically to the stranded men, in order to make them feel confident that they would be rescued.
Higher Education Minister P. Palaniappan rushed to Hogenakkal on Sunday midnight and stayed there till all the four were rescued.
People heading for Hogenakkal were blocked by the police at the check post that was, 12 km ahead of the tourism spot in view of the flood threat.
The Collector said the ban on bathing at the falls and coracle operations would continue for a few more days.