Indian pilots awarded ‘Asian of the Year’ for Kerala floods rescue

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Singapore, Nov 29 (IANS) Indian Navy pilots Commander Vijay Varma and Captain P. Rajkumar have been awarded “Asian of the Year” award, jointly given to four entities, including the two Indians, by Singapore newspaper The Strait Times for their “death-defying rescue flying” during the Kerala floods and courageous conduct in the face of natural calamity.

The English-language flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, also the most-read newspaper in Singapore, announced the award on Wednesday.

The late Singaporean para-glider Ng Kok Choong, along with Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) and Mercy Relief, a Singapore NGO, were the other three awardees.

Varma and Rajkumar were awarded for rescuing a number of people during the Kerala floods which wrecked the state in the month of July and August this year. The two were hailed for rescuing people by winching them up from rooftops and elsewhere in Kochi, including a wheel-chair bound pregnant woman (rescued by Rajkumar).

Choong was chosen for the award for rescuing a little girl and her mother from under rubble in the aftermath of an earthquake which hit the Sulawesi island of Indonesia. He was confronted with the disaster that claimed about 2,100 lives when he went to Indonesia for a para-gliding competition. He died a month later in India, where he fell victim to inclemency of weather while para-gliding in Himachal Pradesh.

“When calamity strikes, the natural instinct of humans is to flee. Yet there are some who, rather than leave the scene, swivel around to confront danger and fight. Risking their own lives, they protect the herd. Each of you exemplifies the best of your breed,” said the award citation.

Warren Fernandez, Editor of The Straits Times, said: “The First Responders were picked after the briefest of debates because theirs was a standout case of courage and selflessness. In an Asia witnessing disasters of increasing frequency and intensity it is clear that there is nothing like ‘over there’ anymore — we all are equally affected. These men, and the two organisations we picked, have taught us through personal example that at the end of the day, security is indivisible.”

–IANS

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