Fire and Emergency Services sweat it out in Bengaluru rains

Torrential downpours have flooded Bengaluru, forcing the authorities to press Fire and Emergency Services personnel into action.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Sep 07, 2022 | 2:24 PM Updated Sep 07, 2022 | 2:27 PM

Drone picture of the Outer Ring Road: Courtesy ORRCA

They have “fire” in their name — and most certainly in their hearts — but the Fire and Emergency Services personnel in Bengaluru are currently dealing with the very weapon they use to combat fire: water.

Torrential downpours have flooded several parts of Bengaluru — especially in the South and Southeast parts — forcing the authorities to press Fire and Emergency Services personnel into action.

That became necessary because water is a great leveller — in more ways than one.

Just ask Unacademy cofounder and CEO Gaurav Munjal.

Even as it was business as usual at the edtech firm in general, Munjal and his family — along with their pet dog — had to be rescued in a tractor from their gated community society in Bengaluru.

Munjal tweeted: “Things are bad. Please take care. DM me if you need any help, I’ll try my best to help. [sic]”

Munjal and his family might have been among the luckier ones. Akhila Somashekar caught no such break. The 23-year-old became the first casualty of the flooding earlier this week.

Out in good strength

Around 200 fire personnel have been separated into several teams, and have spread out to inundated areas.

These include the Outer Ring Road, Bellandur, Yemalur, Sarjapura, Munekolala, Kadugodi, Whitefield, ITPL, Mahadevapura, and KR Puram.

These teams’ job is not to clear the water, but only to rescue stranded people, elderly citizens, and patients who have no access to drinking water, medicines or provisions.

They are also looking for people in buildings and apartments that have been forced to disconnect their power supply.

The Fire Control Room has been flooded with hundreds of distress calls from residents, mainly to pump out water from their basements. However, some said they needed to move to their friends’ or relatives’ places.

The fire officials have roped in both the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) who are attending to move stranded residents from inundated areas to safety.

Extent of efforts

“Lakes, tanks and bunds have breached all around south and southeast Bengaluru, and the water is flowing like rivers on roads,” said a District Fire Officer (DFO)-rank official.

“We cannot do anything with the flowing water as it has undercurrents. Our only option is to wait until the water level comes down naturally, so that we can get access to inundated low-lying areas from where we can pump out water,” he added.

“Until then, whenever we get distress calls from senior citizens or patients trapped inside apartments or houses where the basements are submerged, we will use motorised engine boats to rescue them and unite them with their friends, relatives, or well-wishers,” the officer explained.

Eight motorised engine boats are being used by the Fire and Emergency Services exclusively to attend to only serious distress calls.

Meanwhile, the Fire and Emergency Service personnel have used 24 fire tenders to suck up water — a process they call dewatering.

The problem, however, is where would they go and dispose of it? Any place they do so would get flooded, the officer quipped.

More problems

Even the Kanteerava Stadium — constructed on the bed of the Sampangi Lake — looked like a swimming pool on Monday, before officials rushed to dewater it.

Water entered even the canteen of the Vidhana Soudha — the seat of Karnataka’s Legislative Assembly — from where firemen had to pump out water.

The main road right in front of the Lokayukta building caved in due to the waterlogging, affecting traffic movement.

Traffic policemen were seen using loudspeakers to announce to commuters not to use the Outer Ring Road (ORR) but to access the Inner Ring Road to get to their destinations.

IT-BT companies along the ORR — in Silk Board, Bellandur, Marthahalli, Mahadevapura, ITPL, and Whitefield —let their employees work from home.

The Outer Ring Road Companies Association (ORRCA) is said to be planning strategies to find a solution for waterlogging.

“The ORRCA is engaged with respective authorities to put short, medium, and long-term strategies to resolve the infrastructure issues,” its General Manager Krishna Kumar Gowda told South First.

“Right now, our focus is on supporting rescue efforts that authorities are busy with. Companies have been advised to encourage WFH to ensure roads are not jammed and allow emergency personnel to reach areas needing help,” he added.