Rescue of victims from river remains a challenge

Fire service personnel trying to use their inflatable boat for the rescue operation at River Bhavani in Coimbatore.

Fire service personnel trying to use their inflatable boat for the rescue operation at River Bhavani in Coimbatore.  

On Sunday evening, it was local fishermen from Kutharipalayam village near Sirumugai who rescued three youth who were stranded in the flooded River Bhavani.

They did it with coracles while fire and rescue services personnel, who had come with a rubber inflatable boat, could not do much but watch from the other side of the river.

The river flows for a stretch of more than 15 km from Nellithurai to Pazha Thottam, near Sirumugai, and has a chain of scenic localities that draw tourists. But, there is danger throughout the course of the river during monsoon or whenever water is released from the power generation check dams (barrages) across the river. Every year, about 30 to 50 persons drown in this river.

Fire and rescue services personnel at the Mettupalayam Station said that they use a rubberised boat given to them by the department about five years ago. It is meant for rescue and search operations in still waters.

“We cannot use it in running water as we have to use a row as it does not have a motor. Using the row turns the boat turtle and will put our lives in danger,” he said.

Over the years, the personnel were rescuing those stranded in the flooded river by tying a rope around their hip and swimming to reach the victims, while the other end of the rope will be in the safe hands of the fire force.

“Or we call the nearby fishermen who come to our help on coracles. But, they are not available all the time,” a rescue personnel at the station said, on condition of anonymity.

For about three years, the personnel have been asking the department for a motorboat that would help them reach the victims in time.

Department sources said that there is a need for a motorboat at the Pollachi Fire Station, too, for rescue operations at Aliyar – but the number of incidents there were lesser than River Bhavani.

District Fire Officer S.R. Chandran told The Hindu that they have expressed the need for motorboats at the Mettupalayam and Pollachi fire stations to the regional officer - under the improvement scheme.

It will be taken up with the head office shortly.

“We are also awaiting sanction of funds under some special scheme and use it for buying motorised boats,” he added.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 5:56:54 PM |

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