As Karnataka’s Kodagu is getting back to normalcy, one heroic visual of a rescue operation involving a two-month-old baby has caught the attention of many, including Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy.
In the video, a member of General Thimayya National Academy of Adventure (GETHNAA), Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports (Govt of Karnataka), is seen ziplining across a fast flowing river, with a two-month-old baby strapped to him.
CM Praveen, a professional rock climber, glided through a zip line with the baby, Shalini, just inches above the water. The incident occurred at Thantipala in Madikeri taluk, Kodagu, on August 18. The operation was carried out after a recce was carried out the previous day.
Speaking to TNM, Praveen, said, “This was the most difficult part of the entire rescue operation. We are a specialist in this type of rescue in hard terrain.”
He added, “The place where the family was staying, is an 8-km-long trek as all the roads leading to the house was washed away in mudslides. We witnessed the landslides and had to evacuate immediately. A total of five people, including the baby's mother and grandparents, had crossed the stream using our equipment, after which I carried the baby across.”
The baby was later taken to hospital for a checkup and handed back to the parents.
Praveen was part of a 14-member team, equipped with four SUVs, land and water rescue gear, boats and first aid. The team was led by Keerthi Pais, advisor, GETHNAA, under Kalpana (IAS). Additional Chief Secretary, in-charge of Madikeri at Control Room in DC office.
Arun, Sudeep, Gangadhar, Dadpeer and Yadunandan were also part of the rescue operation.
Keerthi said, “For two kilometres, this narrow road went down the hill through the jungle, after which it cut across coffee estates and finally led to the road, which was destroyed in the landslides. The men had to wade through thick, knee-high slush, slowing down their progress. Besides, the possibility of landslides made it a nerve-racking situation.”
Shalini’s father, Santu (41), who was not with his wife and child during the incident, told TNM how Praveen had reassured him that his child will be safe. “If Praveen was not there, I don't think my family would have survived,” he said.
“I cannot explain the horrors we saw that day. Trees were falling and the landslides were so ferocious that I thought my family would not make it. But Praveen assured me that my family would be rescued,” Santu recounts, adding, “The feeling that I would not see my family again and those hours of wait in the rain are haunting. I hope to God no one faces this kind of horror.”
The hilly district has received heavy rainfall since June and the situation took a turn for the worse since August 12.
According to the Karnataka State Disaster Monitoring Centre, in the week between August 13 and August 20, the district has received 535mm of rainfall, which is 237% more than the normal.
Note: An earlier version of the story had wrongly attributed the daring rescue to an NDRF constable. The error is sincerely regretted.