Excited by what they assumed was the end of the lockdown in Tamil Nadu, 23 men in Coimbatore district's Mettupalayam area decided to take a plunge into the Bhavani river near the Bhadrikaliamman temple in their area. They swam into the waters despite warning of flooding issued by the government authorities on Saturday evening at around 5 am.
Half an hour later, the fire department in Mettupalayam received distressed calls, asking that the mwn be rescued as the current grew too strong for them to come bank to the banks. Visuals from the site show them holding on to branches of a tree.
"It was a Saturday evening and these men assumed that since the lockdown is ending they could throw all advice of physical distancing to the wind and go for a swim. They are all local residents, aged between 20 and 30," says Manikandan, a fire rescue personnel who was part of the team that went to help the men out. "They know exactly how dangerous it is to go into the waters when there is a warning. In the last 5 years alone, atleast 100 people have died while swimming in these waters," he adds.
The fire service personnel state that the last such rescue was in January this year and that since the lockdown began there has been much more discipline as far as staying away from the river is concerned. The fire rescue personnel, who have been occupied with work concerning the coronavirus lockdown, however rushed on Saturday evening with equipment to rescue the men.
"We had to bring them back in batches. We gave life jackets to a few and helped pull them back to the shore. Others were brought back on makeshift boats," says Manikandan.
Once brought back to safety, the local police and fire personnel noted down the details of the men and then proceeded to warn them against risking their lives in the water.