Braving driving rain and raging waters, fishermen from Kerala had rescued 65,000 marooned people from flood hit areas in the state during rescue operations, Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma said on Sunday.
In the worst hit Pathanamthitta district alone, about 70 per cent of the total number of people trapped were rescued by local fishermen who had to all along work in harsh weather, she said.
"Fishermen in 669 mechanised country boats rescued a total of 65,000 people marooned in all districts, braving the torrential rains and floods," she said at a function organised in Kochi to honour the fishermen.
The minister said the government had a clear vision when it decided to prepare fishermen from the sea coast for rescue operations.
The fisheries department resolved to field the fishermen for rescue operations on August 15 when the state started experiencing unusually heavy rains and floods.
Announcements were made through mikes in areas around their homes, including along the Kollam coast, urging the fishermen to launch rescue operations in flooded inland areas, J Mercykutty Amma said.
Fishermen responded and came from far and near, transporting their mechanised country boats in trucks seized by the government for the purpose, she said.
Many fishermen who had ventured into the sea were called back and sent for rescue operations, she said.
"Kerala will always be grateful to the fishermen. We have shown the world that if we stand united we can face any such calamity", the Minister said.
She said though all sections of society had taken part in rescue and relief operations, fishermen were being honoured as the government wanted to bring them into the mainstream.
MPs, MLAs, leaders of political parties and fishermen's outfits participated in the function.
The death toll in the floods has touched 302 and over four lakh people are still in relief camps.
(Kerala has to rebuild itself after the worst floods in over a century. Hundreds have died and lakhs are homeless. Here is how you can help.)