Puthigai: Narayana Naik, alias Ramesh, a 42-year-old coconut plucker was found dead inside the 26-m tunnel that was built to filter water through rocks in Kasargod, Kerala. The incident occurred on Thursday when Ramesh had spotted a porcupine inside the tunnel. He was spotted on Thursday night. However, he could not be rescued. On Friday, by 4:30 PM, after 18 hours, the team was able to bring his body out.  

On Thursday, around 6pm Ramesh had spotted a porcupine along with his friend. He then proceeded to catch the animal, which went inside the tunnel. A rope was tied around his waist in case of an emergency. He had instructed his friend that he would notify if any accident happens and if he needs to be pulled up. After an hour of no response from Ramesh, his friend went into the tunnel to help him. However, he could not proceed as the earth had caved in and blocked his path. Immediately, he informed the villagers about the incident and the fire force and police were called in to supervise.

Due to the lack of air inside the tunnel, the rescue workers pumped oxygen inside the tunnel. They wore oxygen masks and had spotted Ramesh’s leg, but could not reach to take the body out on Thursday. They tried to pull him out with the rope, but could not proceed as he was already buried in mud. He was then declared dead and they stopped the efforts around midnight. On Friday, at 10 AM, the team resumed the efforts to bring him out. The team of fire force and police took help from the workers, who knew about the tunnel.  

The tunnel can be entered easily, but is narrow at the end. The four fire fighters who tried entered the tunnel initially once the mud from the entrance was removed.  Even after this, only three fire fights could proceed. For about 10 meters, they could walk upright after which they had to crouch for another 10 meters. Following which, they had to crawl inside to find Ramesh’s body. They could not take breathing apparatus with them inside and thus an oxygen cylinder was taken, which had to be opened every 10 minutes. 

The rescue team was successful in bringing the body out by 4:30 PM. Station officer PV Prakash Kumar, assistant officer Aji Kumar Babu, firemen PK Baburajan, CH Rahul, IM Ranjith, Akhil S Krishna, K Satish and AV Manoharan were part of the rescue team. 

The porcupine was stuck inside the tunnel when the rescue officers found Ramesh. It was too exhausted to attack and thus the team were able to proceed without much hindrance. 

Water tunnels like the one seen here are common in Kasaragod and Dakshina Kannada (Karnataka). Locally called as a ‘suranga’, the water tunnel is dug horizontal in the slope of laterite hills where water is present. It is a traditional way of filtering water that can be used for drinking and irrigation purposes. They were in use in Kasaragod before the borewell system came into existence. Around 10,000 of these tunnels are present in the district. However, most of them are not in use any more. People, however, avoid going inside a tunnel due to the presence of water. The tunnel’s width and height varies according to the person, who has dug it and is usually 10m-300m long. The digging continues till water is found. Tunnel next to Sheni Shahdara School is the longest one in the district. Small animals like crabs, iguanas and porcupines can hamper the water flow.