Marine ambulances turn lifesavers in flood-hit Kerala
Marooned in an isolated island in Alappuzha amid the worst flood in central Kerala, 62-year-old Kunhirama Kaimal got a kiss of life after a marine ambulance stabilized him following a cardiac arrest on Sunday and rushed him to the nearest road head from where he was taken to Alappuzha medical college hospital.
“No roads or vehicles were in sight. When we were moving to a bridge to save our lives, my father developed severe chest pain. Luckily a local leader had the number of water ambulance and he summoned it,” his daughter Lakshmi Kaimal said.
In an exercise which is the first of its kind in the country, five such ambulances have been pressed into service in flood-hit Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts to help those in need of medical treatment.
The first water ambulance was launched in Alappuzha in April and it was stationed in Panavally. Four other ambulances were to be inaugurated by Onam in August but were pressed into service on Monday as the flood continued to wreak havoc. The four ambulances are stationed at Muhamma, Vaikkam, Ernakulam and Alappzuha
“Water ambulances carry all modern facilities. It can house at least 17 people and cruise at a speed of 12 knots compared to the normal boat speed of 6 knots. The crew have also been trained in underwater search, deep swimming and rescue operation,” said State Water Transport Department director Shaji V Nair. Each ambulance costs between ₹50-60 lakh, he said.
Besides the crew, the state health department has deployed 50 well-trained medical staff and doctors to man these ambulances.
“Water ambulance services will be available round the clock. It can go to remote areas easily and rescue people. In last two days they have done a stupendous work,” said Nair. “This is the first time such ambulances have been pressed into service in the country. We really lack small water-borne vehicles to carry out an emergency rescue mission. We will use their services to the maximum.”
As the three districts reel under the flood, at least 1.50 lakh people are staying in 600 relief camps. Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju made an aerial survey of the flood-affected districts and visited some camps last week.
Though rain has subsided in last two days people still can’t return to their houses because they are water-logged and the fear of an epidemic is looming large. Health officials are keeping a strict vigil to avoid an epidemic outbreak.
“It was the worst disaster. We are doing everything possible to alleviate the suffering of the people,” said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after a video-conference with collectors of three affected districts. At least 45 people have lost their lives since the onset of second spell of monsoon in July second week.