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Snakes pose unexpected hazard for Chennai rescuers

04 December 2015

In an hour-long rescue operation during the Chennai floods, Army personnel didn't just have to tackle flood waters, but also poisonous snakes in their own backyard, as it were.

Chennai's Defence Colony is one of the areas worst hit by the raging floods. It is right next to the Adyar river which is overflowing, and for more than 24 hours now, the Army has been carrying out relief and rescue missions in waters that rose over 18 feet.

At the far end of the colony are the quarters for serving Army personnel. As an olive green army boat was paddled and pushed towards the three-storied buildings, the jawans faced a practical difficulty - the water was too deep and the current too strong to keep the boat from being swept away.

So they decided to turn back and let motor boats handle the raging Adyar waters.

They had just rotated the boat when a soldier suddenly shouted, "Cobra, cobra." The men immediately began splashing water to scare the snake away. Scare it they did, but before it slid away into the bushes, the two-meter long snake came up to less than a meter away from one of the jawans.

By now, the Army men had also decided they could not return. The sight of women and children waving frantically from the terraces of the buildings made them change their mind.

While one snake appeared right next to the boat, a smaller, much thicker snake coiled around a branch emerging from the water as it tried to keep itself safe.

One jawan then dived into the water, swam against the current and climbed on to a submerged car. A rope was flung to him and he in turn threw it to one of the men on the terrace.

A few other jawans then stood in the water and pushed the boat hard against the current that was taking it away. Finally, by supporting it against the building they steadied the boat.

One by one seven children, three women and two men were rescued.

Just then, another snake appeared right next to the boat. A smaller, much thicker snake coiled around a branch emerging from the water as it tried to keep itself safe.

The operation ended. Once the boat was in calmer waters, there was much relief. The women and children got off glad to be marooned no more.

The men in fatigues were, however, already off for their next rescue mission.

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