Fisherman, the ‘Superman’ of Kerala Floods
The Indian state of Kerala has Monsoon in August anyway, but in 2018 it had its heaviest rainfall in decades. There were severe floods that left some areas without electricity, communications, food or drinking water. The floods claimed many lives and left people stranded and waiting for help. The government deployed all possible resources, including the army, to help those affected. Without being asked, maritime fishermen from less affected regions spontaneously volunteered to help with search and rescue. They organised their transport and help when they heard about the suffering in their neighbouring regions.
They organised the transport of smaller boats by truck, and for the larger boats they found a way across the sea and inland canals. Their community collected supplies, equipment, and fuel for them.
The fishermen put their boats at risk during the rescue operations. It was difficult and dangerous to manoeuvre the boats in the flooded areas. Some boats were destroyed and many were damaged. Used to hard work and water, the fisherman also swam to stranded people to help them to the boat when the boat could not be navigated to the people. The fishermen themselves say they acted out of a sense of urgency and a natural sense of helping others in need. They did not want financial compensation from the government, but suggested that the damage to their boats could be repaired.
According to one report at least 65,000 lives have been saved by fisherman. The fishermen from the coast, who had not been held in high esteem by society, were publicly thanked by politicians. The rescued people – regardless of class – and their families were very grateful to the fishermen. Memes about the fishermen spread, with texts such as “Hollywood has Spiderman, Batman, Ironman, but we Keralites have them all under one name – fishermen”.
In itself, there is no real formalisation of this solution. However, the context has certainly given at least some structure to this rescue operation.
Here a certain group of people (the fisherman), with a social network among themselves, relevant skills (to navigate boats even on difficult water) and equipment (boats), helped people close to them when they were in distress, using their special skills and equipment. They helped even though it was not their job and they were not asked to do so, but on their own initiative and at the risk of their lives and equipment.
The fishermen filled a gap that the authorities could not. During the flood, the government activated all kinds of resources, but they could not adequately meet the huge need to rescue stranded people. In addition, the fishermen had more suitable boats for the flooded areas and managed to navigate the water despite the difficult conditions.