SEVERE WX : Frost Advisory View Alerts

Kerala floods: Some fishermen recruited for rescues say survivors insulted them

As devastating floods hit India's southern state of Kerala, thousands scrambled up to the higher floors in t...

Posted: Aug 21, 2018 9:48 AM
Updated: Aug 21, 2018 9:48 AM

As devastating floods hit India's southern state of Kerala, thousands scrambled up to the higher floors in their buildings and crouched together on balconies, waiting desperately for help.

And then, finally, the rescue boats came.

Accidental fatalities

Accidents

Accidents, disasters and safety

Asia

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Continents and regions

Deaths and fatalities

Floods and flooding

India

Marine transportation

Marine vessels

Natural disasters

Society

South Asia

Transportation and warehousing

Fishermen, who had loaded their boats onto trucks, voluntarily traveled to Kerala's inner towns and villages, inundated with more than 10 feet of water. Most people gave them a hero's welcome, grateful to be evacuated after a long wait.

But others have hurled insults and abuse at the volunteers.

Marion George, a 47-year-old fisherman, reached a home in the city of Kollam on Friday with a family of 17 trapped inside.

When he told them that he was there to help them, he was asked, "Isn't this a Christian boat?"

When he replied that, yes, he was a Christian, the men in the family refused to get in his boat and waved him away.

The men were from India's highest Hindu caste, Brahmin, and would not go near George, despite their desperation.

Five hours later, George was back in the same neighborhood and saw the same family calling for his help. He docked his boat close to their home but was again told by the men that they would only board if he did not touch them.

"Normally, their attitude is like this only. We just thought that in this situation, they would have changed," George said.

George estimated that he rescued 150 people over two days until his boat was too damaged to continue.

CNN spoke to several other fishermen who also reported being insulted and treated suspiciously by victims they were trying to help.

The Kerala state government has said that more than 2,800 fishermen have been involved in the relief effort.

More than 300 people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced, as torrential rains triggered the state's worst flooding in nearly a century, destroying homes and roads. People are clinging to anything that floats to get them out of their homes.

People refuse to leave their homes

There is also an issue of trust in strangers. People have been reluctant to leave their homes and belongings behind out of fear that they will be robbed.

Arun Michael, a fisherman in Kollam, saw the news of the flash floods on TV on Wednesday last week and decided to help. On Thursday morning, he loaded his 32-foot boat onto a truck lent out by the local police and he and three others made their way to the district of Pathanamthitta.

Over the next three days, Michael evacuated more than 1,500 people. He navigated his boat through strong currents and rising water levels, reaching flooded homes and helping people climb in. On the last day, he evacuated a total of 600 people.

"What happened now, can happen to anyone. If tomorrow something happens to us, we hope that help would come for us," he said.

But he was surprised to come across victims who greeted him with suspicion and insults.

Some people abused him for trying to convince them to evacuate, he said, referring to a number of victims. Some even made him first carry their dogs to the boat before climbing in themselves.

In some cases, people refused to leave their homes. "They were arrogant and just wanted us to give them food," he said.

But others have been grateful for the bravery and creativity of Michael and his fellow rescuers.

In one instance, Michael and his friends found a house filled with water. They swam out and broke through a door, finding a mentally ill woman in one of the rooms.

The team found three tables and stacked them on top of each other to make a stable base to carry her out, wading through water up to their chins. At times, to stabilize the tables, they had to go underwater, he said.

The government has announced compensation of 3,000 rupees ($40) to each volunteer fisherman plus the costs to repair damaged boats.

For now, many of the fishermen have been unable to use their boats for fishing, waiting for authorities to deliver the money for quick repairs. But Michael isn't waiting.

"My boat is severely damaged but I won't take anything from the government," he said. "I didn't do it expecting benefits."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 584227

Reported Deaths: 7297
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1211481718
Ramsey50494868
Dakota45177443
Anoka40908433
Washington26429279
Stearns21950221
St. Louis17568302
Scott17036124
Wright15771136
Olmsted1312197
Sherburne1144384
Carver1035045
Clay809292
Rice7964106
Blue Earth740941
Crow Wing654188
Kandiyohi648282
Chisago584051
Otter Tail568978
Benton561497
Goodhue471972
Mower461432
Douglas460474
Winona448950
Itasca421153
McLeod417758
Morrison414560
Isanti410762
Nobles406748
Beltrami388558
Steele382015
Polk380368
Becker376450
Lyon357850
Carlton340953
Freeborn339929
Pine324121
Nicollet321443
Brown303540
Mille Lacs298252
Le Sueur286422
Todd278731
Cass266328
Meeker251340
Waseca235822
Martin228831
Roseau206119
Wabasha20383
Hubbard184241
Dodge18193
Renville178243
Redwood171536
Houston170215
Cottonwood163121
Fillmore154110
Wadena153621
Pennington153319
Chippewa151338
Faribault150319
Kanabec143024
Sibley141310
Aitkin133236
Watonwan13049
Rock127319
Jackson121411
Pipestone114226
Yellow Medicine113620
Pope10846
Murray10579
Swift104218
Stevens89211
Marshall87617
Clearwater85816
Koochiching81615
Lake80619
Wilkin79912
Lac qui Parle75022
Big Stone5934
Lincoln5733
Grant5648
Mahnomen5418
Norman5379
Unassigned49793
Kittson48222
Red Lake3957
Traverse3685
Lake of the Woods3193
Cook1560

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 364967

Reported Deaths: 5920
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57277621
Linn20729334
Scott19808240
Black Hawk15757308
Woodbury15091228
Johnson1441183
Dubuque13326209
Dallas1111198
Pottawattamie11043168
Story1054948
Warren573688
Clinton552092
Cerro Gordo536389
Sioux512874
Webster510993
Marshall481075
Muscatine474699
Des Moines451766
Wapello4284122
Buena Vista424040
Jasper413771
Plymouth400179
Lee373155
Marion360575
Jones296957
Henry290737
Carroll284752
Bremer282860
Crawford265840
Boone262734
Benton255055
Washington253350
Dickinson247543
Mahaska229351
Jackson220942
Kossuth215164
Clay214725
Tama208971
Delaware208240
Winneshiek196733
Page192222
Buchanan190431
Cedar188923
Fayette184741
Hardin184643
Wright183436
Hamilton179249
Harrison179273
Clayton169156
Butler164234
Mills161422
Madison160419
Floyd159642
Cherokee158538
Lyon157541
Poweshiek154733
Allamakee150351
Iowa148124
Hancock146834
Winnebago141231
Cass137554
Calhoun136613
Grundy136033
Emmet133940
Jefferson132135
Shelby130437
Sac130119
Appanoose128048
Louisa127849
Union127832
Mitchell125742
Chickasaw123815
Guthrie120829
Humboldt118826
Franklin117421
Palo Alto112223
Howard104122
Montgomery102838
Unassigned10080
Clarke99824
Keokuk95331
Monroe95129
Ida90234
Adair86232
Pocahontas85422
Monona82730
Davis81824
Osceola77916
Greene77610
Lucas76823
Worth7368
Taylor65612
Fremont6229
Decatur6069
Van Buren55718
Ringgold55524
Wayne53223
Audubon50610
Adams3384
Rochester
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 51°
Mason City
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 43°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 46°
Austin
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 48°
Charles City
Clear
° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: °
Rain chances over the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events