Subramanian N. Shastry
Thiruvananthapuram: Fishermen Maniyan and Anil from Veli owe their lives to amateur radio operators from Quilon and Idukki who pitched in some valuable efforts to reach out to those affected by cyclone Ockhi. The two had gone to rescue cyclone affected fishermen and had to lie in the waters for two days. They had given up hope and even cut loose the rope tying them to each other, when a small fishing boat came to the area.
The boat had VHS radio and was in constant touch with Idukki-based Ham Radio and Emergency Communication society which was active at a repeating station at Kalvari Mount around 5000 feet above sea level. "The Coast Guard ships on the surface level often are unable to communicate with small boats having weak radio signals. Our amateur club comprising six members had the advantage of sitting at a height. We relayed the latitude and longitude to rescue vessels which reached out to the duo," said Manoj Galaxy, secretary of the society.
They sprung into action only on Saturday based on the request of Quilon Amateur Radio Society that was already actively helping in communication. Though most medium sized boats that met with accidents flaunt radios, when boats capsize, their antennas and batteries get damaged. "We could also communicate with a few lost boats at Kanyakumari and Kochi which managed to anchor at safe pockets in the high seas during the cyclone," Mr Manoj added. The details of the intercepts were reported to district collectors who had sought their assistance.
Though Ham radio is pursued as a hobby in the state, it has aided during disasters like the 2004 tsunami, Sabarimala stampede among others. "Our ham radio enthusiasts could not assess the damage at Lakshadweep as we did not have a licence to communicate with the Union Territory," said Subramanian N Shastry, director of Institute of Amateur Radio in Kerala.