Tamil Nadu

Police rise to the occasion

Challenging task: Rescue personnel were in a race against time to locate the victims of the wildfires.

Challenging task: Rescue personnel were in a race against time to locate the victims of the wildfires.   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Improvise on the fly during rescue

The State police braved the odds presented by nature to mount a rescue operation at Kurangani on the Western Ghats. “Our men rose to the occasion and rescued the victims, despite the unfamiliar terrain, inclement weather and pitch dark night,” said Inspector General of Police (South Zone) Shailesh Kumar Yadav, who coordinated the entire effort from the foothills.

At any point in time on Sunday night, some 200 personnel — young and fighting-fit men from the Armed Reserve police, the Tamil Nadu special police, the Taluk police as well as constable recruits and members of the anti-naxal squad — fought the fires to rescue survivors and bring down bodies. While the anti-naxal squad and the few foresters present in the affected area were familiar with the hilly terrains, the others weren’t. The team was led by senior officers at the base camp on the foothills.

“Even locating the actual spot where the trekkers were trapped was a difficult task. All we knew was that they were on the route towards Kolukkumalai,” Theni Superintendent of Police V. Baskaran said.

The first batch of police personnel reached the spot within the first one hour. “Only after we reached the spot, we realised that all the survivors had suffered burns, from simple to severe. By that time, the sunlight had failed. We did not know how to carry them down,” Mr. Baskaran said.

“We focussed on saving the survivors by giving them timely medical help,” Mr. Yadav said. “Thinking on their feet, our men mobilised bedsheets to make ‘dolis’ and bring them [victims] down. We formed a team of 15 policemen to take care of each victim,” Mr. Yadav said.

Fall in temperature

But the police did not anticipate that there will be a sudden fall in temperature up the hill. “With burnt skin, the victims were struggling in the cold. Some of our boys gave their lungis, shirts and T-shirts to cover the victims,” Mr. Baskaran said.

When the police came to know that IAF helicopters could come to their rescue only during the day, they started to fight against time. By that time, a local doctor, C.P. Rajkumar had climbed up the hill despite local people advising against it. The operation continued till 6 a.m. on Monday when the last survivor was brought down.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 9:57:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/police-rise-to-the-occasion/article23231116.ece

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