PROFILES OF COURAGE - ST Asians of the Year

Flying daring missions to get people to safety

When Mount Agung erupted and brought Bali to a standstill, Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho was hooked up to an IV line, breathing through one lung and issuing press releases to journalists. While fighting his own battle with cancer, the spokesman for Indonesia's national disaster management agency continues to calm the nation through wildfires, landslides, floods and earthquakes. In daring missions, Indian Navy Commander Vijay Varma and Navy Captain P. Rajkumar rescued a woman in labour, a paraplegic in a wheelchair and 138 others during Kerala's worst floods in a century. Our bureaus profile these men who were among the First Responders collectively named last week as The Straits Times' Asians of the Year.

Commander Vijay Varma (left) rescued 26 people during the Kerala floods, and Captain P. Rajkumar, 114 people. The two Indian Navy helicopter pilots say the search and rescue mission in Kerala during severe flooding in August was their most challengin
Commander Vijay Varma (above) rescued 26 people during the Kerala floods, and Captain P. Rajkumar, 114 people. The two Indian Navy helicopter pilots say the search and rescue mission in Kerala during severe flooding in August was their most challenging mission.PHOTO: COURTESY OF VIJAY VARMA AND P. RAJKUMAR
Commander Vijay Varma (left) rescued 26 people during the Kerala floods, and Captain P. Rajkumar, 114 people. The two Indian Navy helicopter pilots say the search and rescue mission in Kerala during severe flooding in August was their most challengin
Commander Vijay Varma rescued 26 people during the Kerala floods, and Captain P. Rajkumar (above), 114 people. The two Indian Navy helicopter pilots say the search and rescue mission in Kerala during severe flooding in August was their most challenging mission.PHOTO: COURTESY OF VIJAY VARMA AND P. RAJKUMAR

Over the years, Indian Navy Commander Vijay Varma, 42, and Navy Captain P. Rajkumar, 54, have been involved in many rescue missions where they saved flood, tsunami and cyclone victims.

But the search and rescue mission in the southern state of Kerala in August was their most challenging mission, said the two officers who were among four men and two disaster relief organisations named The Straits Times Asians of the Year last Wednesday.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2018, with the headline 'Flying daring missions to get people to safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe