“I was paddling around when I heard a faint drum beat and replied by blowing my whistle. The drum beat grew more intense, I raced to the location by tracking the sound and found around 25 people who’d been trapped there. There was no means of communication and they’d been stuck there for a few days,” Mesh Manoharan says as he recounts his rescue of the descendants of a royal family.
A commercial diver and licensed scuba diving instructor, Manoharan works with a water sports facility near Chendamangalam in Kerala.
“The floods hit us unexpectedly, no one had any resources. I was trapped too,” he opens his mind. “I started kayaking around the area just to get an idea of what the situation was like and noticed that many people were feeling isolated and getting mentally dejected because they were trapped in such a remote area.”
Manoharan spent time with people he found and reassured them that help was on the way. Before the navy and other officials reached, he managed to find resources to help sustain people who were trapped because of the floods.
“We had no food or water, so I had to resort to swiping tender coconuts and bananas from where I could find them,” he says with a chuckle, adding, “It managed to keep some of them going for some more time.”
After the floods hit the state, the scuba diver took it upon himself to traverse the waters checking for trapped people. In a span of two to three days, with the support of locals, he managed to help rescue over 70 people, including a 4-month-old infant and her mother.
“The first two days I mostly scoured the area to assess the situation and took note of the people who needed help. Conditions were rough, many people didn’t have any resources to survive and flooding was rampant!” says Manoharan.
A number of paths were blocked due to fallen trees and it proved difficult for the navy to reach people in those areas. But Manoharan managed to reach these people on his kayak and take them to the navy members so they could be transported to a safe spot.
“There was a 4-month-old baby trapped in a house with her mother for two days. The navy team found it difficult to reach them because the entire place was surrounded by trees, many of which had fallen. The water had flooded the first floor and the woman was staying on the second floor with the child. I managed to take them both to the navy boat safely. The baby was oblivious to the situation and sat quietly in my lap,” Manoharan recounts another rescue story.
Chendamangalam native, 37-year-old Rajitha, whom Manoharan had rescued.
“It’s solely because he was there that we are all still alive. He’s a great human being,” she says gratefully about the man who rescued her and 12 others, including her family members and a few neighbors.
“Only one person could be rescued at a time, but he managed to take even three people at once. My father and daughter were in the boat and it toppled, but he immediately rescued them. He actually took us all to his house and later moved us to a relief camp because a wall fell in his house. My parents are old, but he brought them to safety as well by carrying them in a chair to the boat.”
Having completed such a gargantuan task, Manoharan now looks ahead to the work that needs to be done.
“The water has receded now, it’s like an ocean of filth and mud. People have started returning and there is a lot of work to be done ahead. We are recovering slowly,” he says.