Army troops improvise rescue boats amid flooding

Troops from the Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre conduct rescue operations using rubber boats, to which outboard motors had been improvised.

When flooding began to take place on a massive scale in North Karnataka, army troops dispatched to help those cut-off by rising water found that they lacked all forms of pertinent equipment, chief of all, powered boats.

According to a source, the situation first came to a head on August 4, when the Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre in Belagavi received a request from the civil administration to help with flood relief operations as heavy rains battered north Karnataka, prompting a release of water into the Krishna River from Maharashtra which inundated over 40 villages in the district.

To make matters worse, National Highway-48 was blocked by a landslide near Kolhapur and the two roads to Goa via Chorla and Amboli were cut off at various points by rising waters. 


 At Masaguppi Village in Belgaum district, Major Rajpal Singh Rathore of the Maratha Light Infantry rescued the lady in 15 feet deep water as she refused to get evacuated. Major Rathore strapped her on his back and swam across more than 70 metres to safety.

As the regimental centre (a training station) prepared to deploy, it found that all it had available for job were a few aluminum boats with outboard motors plus rubber boats with pedals, called BAPs or chappus, which are used for crossing canals, according to a source. 

The aluminum boats, while powered, were unwieldy in fast currents, the source added. 

Nevertheless, two flood relief columns were sent out with 10 rubber boats, which the troops used to evacuate over a 1,000 civilians and rescue more than 200 others, even though a source explained that peddle-powered boats showed themselves to be rapidly unsuitable for the task.

Consequently, the centre began a crash-course to modify its rubber boats with engines and other accouterments to allow them to be used for rescue efforts.

“We added wooden beams to which we rigged an outboard motor,” a source in the centre clarified.

At present, six columns with more than 350 troops from the centre outfitted with the modified boats are operational in Belagavi city, Chikkodi, Gokak, Mudagali and Nippani Tehsil, assisted by paratroopers and engineers from the Madras Engineers Group from Bengaluru, plus a diving team from Karwar Navy. About 6,000 civilians have been evacuated and 2,000 more have been rescued from marooned areas so far.

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