KOCHI: A heavily pregnant woman stranded by floods in the Indian state of Kerala gave birth just after being airlifted to safety, an Indian Navy spokesman said, as the military stepped up rescue operations yesterday. Dozens of navy helicopters have embarked on high-risk missions to save people from rooftops and isolated land as the southern state battles a flood crisis that has left at least 324 people dead.
Sajita Jabeel, 25, was winched up by Commander Vijay Verma, who has been widely praised for leading the rescue in the Aluva district of the state’s main city Kochi. “The lady was in labor, her water had broken,” Verma told News18 television. He called the relief mission “very challenging” and said his team had rushed to find the family after receiving an emergency call. “We took a doctor along, we winched her up, it took some time though because we had to winch down two people to help her.” Jabeel gave birth to a healthy baby boy after being rushed to hospital.
Kerala, popular among international tourists for its tropical hills and beaches, has been battered by record monsoon rainfall this year. About 60 military and coast guard helicopters and hundreds of boats are scouring the flood zones across the state for trapped victims. The military said that tens of thousands have been rescued in the past week, but thousands more are feared trapped.
Another pilot winched 26 people up from a rooftop in Kochi on Friday while hovering between trees and other houses just two days after receiving a medal for saving a fisherman last year. A video of Captain P Rajkumar’s Sea King helicopter pulling up the victims has been widely shared on social media. He ended up with 32 people on board. “It was a life-threatening mission but it’s an unprecedented situation. We can’t leave behind our people,” Indian Navy spokesman Captain DK Sharma told AFP. Rajkumar was given the Shaurya Chakra medal for bravery this week after lifting a fisherman from the sea when cyclone Ockhi hit India last year.
25 dogs rescued
A woman refused to leave her flooded house in India’s Kerala state without her 25 dogs, a rescuer said yesterday, as the death toll continued to rise. The dogs were found cowering on beds in the flooded house with water rising when an animal welfare group arrived for a last-gasp rescue, said Sally Varma of Humane Society International. The woman, who uses only one name Sunitha, was found by rescuers in Thrissur, one of the districts worst hit by floods in Kerala that have left at least 324 dead.
But she refused to leave her house unless her dogs, all strays or abandoned pets, were taken too, Varma said. “She sent back volunteers and rescue officials because they said they could not evacuate her dogs. “She was just not willing to leave her dogs behind. She then managed to get in touch with us,” Varma added. “When the rescue team reached her house, it was completely flooded and the dogs were huddled on beds.” Sunitha, her husband and the dogs are now staying at a special shelter as the relief camps set up for the disaster refused animals. Varma said she has started a fundraiser for Sunitha and her pets so a kennel could be built at her home after the floods recede. – AFP