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Meet Hyderabad's superheroes tackling disasters as a daily job

DECCAN CHRONICLE | Sanjay Samuel Paul

Published on: September 5, 2023 | Updated on: September 5, 2023

City Disaster Response Force (DRF), which has been crucial to undertake speedy remedial action during emergencies. (Image: DC)

Hyderabad: While rainfall forces school closures, offices to switch to work-from-home modes and people to generally stay indoors, there is a team of 450 people who jump into action during such situations and undertake works from clearing waterlogging and fallen trees to rescuing people.

This is the city Disaster Response Force (DRF), which has been crucial to undertake speedy remedial action during emergencies.

Operating under the GHMC and directorate of EV&DM (enforcement vigilance and disaster management), the DRF comprises 27 teams of personnel trained in handling disasters like urban floods, building collapses, rail-road accidents, tree fall, etc. They also assist the fire department in tackling accidents.

Officials said that 50 DRF personnel were trained by the NDRF’s 10th Battalion. DRF teams are deployed at strategic locations and work round-the-clock to be the first responders to emergencies.

Each team, of five to six people, is equipped with modern technology and special vehicles to address public grievances during rain and heavy wind.

Askani Manoj, a DRF personnel, who joined the team in 2018, said: "My first rescue operation was in November 2019. It was a challenging one, wherein an MMTS train met with an accident at Uppuguda, in a collision with another train. Drivers were stuck between engines. Our team cut the trains and rescued the stuck personnel. Another one I remember vividly was in October 2020, when Nadeem Colony was flooded due to rain. We reached them in boats and evacuated the residents."

However, he said that the toughest time was during the initial days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We used to carry liquid bleach and spray it all across the city; our eyes used to burn, but we could not stop working. Everyone was scared of the virus. I have three children and I daily feared while returning home if I was carrying the virus."

 Thirty-one-year-old Anantula Sai Kumar, of Team 22 (BHEL Crossroads), said, "Teams are trained in such a way that we have to be present at the situation, tackle the situation and ensure no human loss takes place. When people go missing in nalas, we will move into the water and rescue."

Mohammed Shoukath, an SFO, said: "These teams are placed in different spots all across the GHMC region. Depending on the intensity of the event, additional teams may be deployed for the operation."

Shek Mumtaz, chief mechanic, DRF, said: "Equipment is checked regularly. Any repair or replacement is done immediately. Mostly common repairs are replacing the blades of saw machines."