With heavy rains and floods wreaking havoc in Kerala, the Southern Naval Command has launched Operation Madad with all available resources at its disposal. One diving team with a Gemini inflatable boat was airlifted and sent to Kalpetta in Wayanad late on Thursday night upon the request of the district collector to undertake rescue operations due to floods and landslides.
Another three teams with Gemini boats commenced the rescue operations at Panamaram (13 km south of Mananthwady in Wayanad) and evacuated 55 stranded people till early morning on Friday.
Three additional diving teams have also proceeded to the affected areas for augmenting the rescue operations. Two more diving teams for relief operations are standby at Ernakulam's Aluva in coordination with the district deputy collector. In addition, the Command Hospital, INHS Sanjivani and community kitchen of INS Venduruthy are kept standby for rendering any help needed. Naval helicopters are also being deployed for ferrying divers, power tools, axes and relief material to the flooded areas to augment ongoing relief operations.
It was Friday fury in Kerala as rains continued unabated and shutters of more dams were opened prompting the Centre to rush additional forces, Army and NDRF, for evacuation, rescue and relief.
Speaking to THE WEEK, NDRF DG Sanjay Kumar said the situation has not deteriorated, if not improved, but efforts are going on to provide relief and assistance to all affected people.
Kumar said it would take some more time for the disaster relief and rescue forces to be able to evacuate people from low lying areas and for the situation to improve .
“There is a possibility of water level rising if the rains continue. The technical experts and departments concerned are on the job to see how much water has to be released. The state government is coordinating with all the agencies. But given the present situation, we are evacuating people from low-lying areas and those who have houses on raised grounds are being sent relief material” said Kumar.
“Four more teams of NDRF are in the process of being airlifted from Tamil Nadu and Andhra for deployment on the flood affected districts. They will be there shortly. Additional deployment is being sent on requisition by the state government . We have already deployed ten teams (nearly 500 NDRF personnel) across seven districts namely Ernakulum, Alappazuha, Kozhikode, Palakkad, Idukki, Wayanad and Malappuram,” said the 1985-batch IPS officer who had earlier served as the DGP of Himachal Pradesh.
NDRF officials said the forces on the ground are equipped with all the equipment and gear for relief and rescue operations, besides medicines and lifesaving equipment, in addition to modern communication gadgets like QD VSAT, HF and VHF, including satellite phones.
Meanwhile, the Army and Air Force also swung into action with a total of eight columns of Army being deployed in different parts of Kerala. The Army station located at Pangode in Thiruvananthapuram had already deployed one column of Army personnel under the supervision of a captain-rank officer in Idukki district. They are stationed at Adimali in Idukki and rescue operation is progressing, said an official government statement .
“DSC Kannur has deployed one column of DSC personnel to Idukki. So Idukki presently has two column of defence personnel in operation. DSC Kannur has deployed four more column at Iritty, Thamarassery, Wayanad and Malappuram,” it said.
The rescue mission in Wayanad district is controlled by a Lieutenant Colonel. Meanwhile, one column of Army posted by DSC Kannur at Wayanad divided themselves into two groups and one in Vaithiry and Panamaram areas in Wayanad for carrying out rescue operations in close quarter with the civil administration.
The DSC personnel with three columns also cleared road blocks so as to clear flow of water in the right direction and made temporary bridges in the Thamarassery Churam and Kozhikode. Due to the unfavourable climate the team took almost eight hours to travel 46 km. Two column MEG of Indian Army from Bengaluru and one column from Hyderabad were deployed in various affected areas.
The Indian Air Force has pressed into action two helicopters for search and rescue operations. One Mi-17IV and an ALH helicopters have been deployed from Sulur Air Force base. One AN-32 aircraft was flown to Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu to airlift the NDRF personnel for enhanced rescue operations and brought them to Kozhikode.
The timely intervention and assistance by the defence forces helped affected people reach safer locations. However, the rescue operations carried out by the Army and Air Force in association with NDRF personnel is still going on.
Multiple agencies of both the central and state government, including the central water commission, IMD, National Disaster Management Authority, home ministry and defence ministry, among others, have come together to carry out one of the biggest flood relief and rescue operations in Kerala in recent times.
The moot question remains that despite so many agencies at work, there are still inadequate ways for forecasting floods like the situation witnessed in Kerala. For a state that witnesses heavy rainfall could it have been avoided? Once the flood recedes, the NDMA which is the central nodal body, for disaster management in the country, may be keen to draw some lessons.