Exclusives

‘People are stranded on rooftops, hope Centre keeps political differences aside and deploys more resources’

Shyam Kumar, a relief worker in Kochi, writes an exclusive first person account of the floods in Kerala and the hardships faced by rescue workers in conducting their operations

R Shyam Kumar

None of us thought the rains would wreak havoc like this. And, hence, no one took precautions in the beginning. We treated it as a regular monsoon that had extended for some more time.

But, once the landslides began and the rivers overflowed, we grasped the seriousness of the situation. When the dams across Kerala were opened, water began to seep into the low lying, interior areas.

At some places, water rose to the first floor overnight, forcing many to rush to the rooftops. Some people still remain stranded on their rooftops without food or water.

Many of the families we rescued by boat said the water was on the ground level when they went to sleep. They woke up in the middle of the night to see water seeping in and rushed upstairs.

There are more than 1,500 relief camps in the state now. It is difficult to cook as the logs don’t burn; there is a scarcity of toilets as well as logistical challenges to get drinking water to the camps. Mosques, temples and churches have opened their doors to take in victims.

The fact that many bridges overflowed and some even cracked under the pressure of water is making our rescue operations harder.

Rescue operations in the initial days were mainly carried out by the community of fishermen who worked with us day and night to save thousands of people trapped in their houses. We were not given any help from the army/navy.
Finally, helicopters and boats came to the rescue, but they are still unable to reach many places. We are not able to spot a few houses from helicopters due to thick forest cover.

We just hope the Centre keeps aside its political difference with the state aside and deploys more resources.

(The writer is a relief worker in Ernakulam camp, Kochi.)

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