Kerala floods rescue: A chopper, a boat, and a prayer

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Kerala floods rescue: A chopper, a boat, and a prayer

The floodwaters in Kerala may have begun to recede, but there has been no let-up in the rescue and relief operations. S. Anandan goes on a sortie aboard a Sea King helicopter to offer a ringside view of a mission that has been coordinated with military precision

It is the afternoon of August 19, and the sky over central Kerala is a deathly yellow. Having sent down torrents of rain for days on end, it looks spent. From the naval Sea King helicopter in which I am seated, the view below is of a vast expanse of water perforated by the occasional thicket, patches of dry land, a few defiant coconut palms, ridges of sloped roofs, and tall, multilevel dwellings whose terraces, until the other day, had been packed with the marooned, waiting desperately for the thrum of a helicopter.

The buildings are largely empty now, their occupants either consumed by the rising tide or evacuated to safety. A multi-agency rescue mission involving the Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Army, the National Disaster Response Force, and several others had commenced on a modest scale on August 9 before expanding over the next 10 days, with hundreds of aerial and boat search parties tackling head-on the worst natural calamity in the State’s recent history.

Now the floodwaters have begun to recede. Rescue missions have been wound up. Rationing of supplies, however, is still ongoing. Ours is one of the several relief supply sorties launched from the Southern Naval Command’s air station Garuda, the hub of aerial rescue and relief operations.

Since the start of the operations, the Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard have together flown 513 rescue-cum-relief sorties, clocking over 677 hours of flying, and airlifting 1,173 people to safety. At the time of reporting, boat rescues by the Navy and the fishers had together saved 16,843 people from certain death. The Sea King, though an ageing helicopter with antiquated avionics, is a multi-role aircraft that continues to be the all-weather workhorse of the Indian Navy.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Daily Report and is published from a The Hindu.)

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