8 lifeguards, 1 supermarket dinghy – RNLI award for Bangladesh flood rescue
A team of lifeguards in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, has become the first international programme to receive a bravery award from the UK’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The award comes after they rescued more than 100 people from a flooded village.
‘Two people came up to us on Shugunda Beach, asking for help because their family had been trapped there since the previous evening,’ says Lifeguard Supervisor Sefat. ‘After hearing the problem, we tried to call the Fire Service but the network was not working. It was raining heavily and there was also a high tide adding to the floods, so our lifeguard team decided to go and help them.’
The call for help - and an unlikely lifeboat
With monsoon rains set in and the beach very quiet, eight of the lifeguards decided to attempt a rescue, despite it being inland and in unfamiliar, unpredictable waters. They grabbed rescue boards, rescue tubes and lifejackets, and headed to Ramu. They also took an unlikely bit of kit – an inflatable beach dinghy from a supermarket chain – which RNLI trainers had brought out to Bangladesh the previous November.
Sefat still remembers the scene that met him that day: ‘We saw water everywhere. Most of the houses were underwater. Most of the people were standing on the rooftops of their houses. They were panicked.’
‘Obviously an inflatable isn’t a recommended piece of kit, but when resources are limited and lives are at risk, you have to be resourceful,’ says David Whiddon. ‘The training is as much about keeping yourself safe as rescuing other people. In the footage you can see them using ropes to negotiate the fast-flowing water, and using the flow to move steadily to safety.’
The RNLI desires to acknowledge with warm appreciation the outstanding effort by CIPRB SeaSafe Lifeguards of Cox’s Bazar in rescuing over one hundred people and saving many lives during the floods in Ramu, Bangladesh, in July 2015.
‘We were surprised as well as happy. We never thought that our rescue would be recognised with a bravery award from our partners at the RNLI. It will inspire us to continue in future,’ says Sefat.
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Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.