Trapped for hours, rescued by IAF, Orissa victims recall ordeal

September 22nd, 2008 - 3:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Kendrapada (Orissa), Sep 22 (IANS) Two men in their 60s were trapped on the roof of a building in a flood-hit Orissa village for 12 hours until an Indian Air Force (IAF) chopper came to their help. They recount their ordeal with horror and can’t stop thanking the defence personnel. “If it was not for the Indian Air Force’s helicopter, no one would have even tried to come to our rescue,” said 65-year-old Sadananda Sahoo, recalling his ordeal.

The Luna river breached an embankment at Jagannathpur village in the worst-hit Kendrapada district, some 150 km from state capital Bhubaneswar Friday night, leaving around 2,000 villagers marooned.

Most of them managed to flee to safer places and highways, but at least 18 people were stranded on the first floor of a building surrounded by floodwaters.

But to their horror, a part of the building collapsed due to the swirling waters and many were forced to jump into the water. But two men in their 60s - Sadananda and Madan Sahoo - could not and they ran to the rooftop, fearing they may not survive.

“The water level suddenly began to rise after the Luna gushed into our village. We quickly climbed to the roof. We thought we will die. But thanks to the Indian Air Force team, we were saved,” said Sadananda.

The IAF chopper was air-dropping relief materials in the region Saturday, when they were told about the two trapped men, said Squadron Leader Anup Sharma of the IAF.

“We tried to locate them. It took 20 minutes for me to locate the marooned building. I air-dropped an Air Force personnel from the helicopter on the building and we rescued them with the help of ropes,” Sharma told IANS.

“It was risky, but it gives us satisfaction that we saved the lives of people,” he said.

“On Friday, we air-lifted five people including an old man in Manikapur in Cuttack district.

“The smile on the faces of the rescued peoples and their blessings are the best awards for me.”

The two men are now undergoing treatment in a government community health centre.

Personnel of the Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force have also rescued hundreds of people sailing in boats from a number of places, said state Inspector General of Police Pradeep Kapur.

At least 150 personnel of the force are helping in the rescue of flood victims using over 40 powerboats, he added.

Triggered by heavy rains, The floods in Orissa have claimed 17 lives and affected three million people. Survivors have been staying on high-rise buildings, schools and cyclone shelters after their houses were destroyed in the disaster.

About 300,000 people have been evacuated in the past four days and rescue operations are underway at several places.

Apart from the torrential rains, a huge quantity of water entered the Hirakud reservoir, forcing authorities to open some 40 of its 64 sluice gates, inundating many more villages.

Thousands of flood victims are now struggling for food and drinking water as the overflowing Mahanadi river and its tributaries have marooned around 570,000 people.

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