Danuska Da Gama
With some parts of Goa witnessing a flood-like situation Varad Karmali and his friends Akhil Nadkarni, Swapnil Gurav, Mazhar Shaikh, Clifford Ifialho and Shawn Coelho were buoyed to do their part to help those affected.
Karmali decided to put out a post on Facebook offering help in the form of distributing food packets and rescuing people with the help of their 4×4 jeeps which can traverse through four to five feet deep water. They also got in touch with government officials to help them in their rescue operations over the last two days.
“Credit goes to Village Panchayat and Joint Mamlatdar, Pernem for allowing us to help during this time,” says Karmali, adding that they have put 12 vehicles on the job and have been helped by friends from various parts of Goa- Margao, Old Goa, Curchorem, and other places. Only nine of these 12 vehicles can venture into deep waters.
“A normal vehicle can get stuck, but an off roading vehicle doesn’t get stuck in muck as it has a hybrid engine. As we have done off road trails, we have experience in such situations and if we don’t put ourselves to use during such times of emergencies, then what is the point?” says Karmali, who was on his way to Sal to distribute food packets.
There have been a few incidents though. On August 8, as Karmali and his friends were trying to distribute food in a village called Chiculem, one of the vehicles got stuck. “As there were three-four other vehicles we managed to pull the jeep out and then rescued the people who were stuck,” he says.
He further says that major rescue work was conducted here for about 40 affected houses with about 90 to 100 people needing help. “We went with six jeeps and provided them with food, along with the staff of the joint mamlatdar’s office, village panchayat and some locals who helped us reach the site of damage,” he says.
Another major rescue operation was conducted at a village called Aroba which was badly affected. “There were lifeguards there and boats were used for evacuating people from houses with upto five-six feet water. We helped with the jeeps and distributed water and helped them come out,” he says.
The group has faced other challenges while on their mission to rescue people. “Besides the challenges of trying to deliver food, water, medical requirements, it is difficult at times to convince people to move out of their homes. Because of gadgets and expensive items, they are very reluctant to let go of their belongings and keep themselves safe,” he says, while adding that people are struggling in water that is two to three feet deep. Some are on the first floor and the others are living on their terraces presently while waiting for the water to recede.
“A couple who had a seven-year-old daughter was reluctant to move out of their home and asked us to drop the little girl to a relative’s place,” he says. “There are several incidents that we have faced in these last two days and I appeal to people to care of their lives first and then the assets.”
Karmali says that it’s just not him, but several other Goans who have been playing their part in managing such a disaster. He lauds the efforts of the government and the Chief Minister’s Office for taking timely measures by providing food, water, deploying lifeguards, etc across the affected parts.
For Karmali though this is not the first time that he has helped people out during floods. About 10 years ago, he along with his father Maruti helped the people of Canacona during the flooding. “We stayed there overnight as we had to help people throughout those days, but that time we didn’t have our vehicles like we do today,” he recalls.
“I am just doing my part as a human being and every other human being should be helpful in such times,” he adds.
(The group can be contacted for rescue work on 9823075780)