An elderly woman could be seen running from one person to another screaming through the rain swept roads in this high range hamlet, located at the foothills of Western Ghats mountain ranges, on Sunday morning. ”I have lost everything…everything in my life…where should I go?…who will give me a shelter?” the woman, clad in a tattered saree, asked aloud crying and running here and there.
The unexpected torrential rain, which pounded the village on Saturday, washed away every penny of her life time earnings and made her homeless all of a sudden. ”I begged our Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sir to give me two cents of land to construct a ’koora’ (hut). I have nowhere to go. My daughters’ houses are also submerged. Now I am going to the church to see whether I will get a place there,” she told the journalists gathered at the place. It was the story of many hapless families in Koottickal, located in Kottayam district of Kerala which suffered severe destruction and human casualty due to a series of landslips triggered by heavy rains yesterday.
When the extreme rains showed a slight dip this morning, a large number of people in this village could be seen as displaced and became the inmates of rehabilitation campus. Many elderly villagers said it was for the first time in their decades-old life that they were seeing and experiencing such severe rainfall. A local shop owner here pointed to his new car, which can be seen as destroyed and partially hanging with its back wheels stuck on a broken wall in his house compound.
”It was my new car parked in front of the house. I was not at home when the flood water suddenly gushed inside the house compound Saturday afternoon. My wife and children some how managed to run to the neighbour’s house,” the middle aged man said. He turned a bit emotional showing the ’mundu’ (dhoti) which he was wearing, saying that it was borrowed from the neighbour.
Only life was saved and everything else was lost, he said adding that not even in the 2018 floods had he faced such a terrible situation. The situation was not different in Kokkayar, a hilly hamlet in Idukki district as well, which also witnessed a series of landslips and human casualty on Saturday in incessant rains.
A shocked Rajamma, a woman villager, was yet to believe that a four-member family including children, who was seen engaged in some construction activities near her home on the foothills of hill, swept away by flood waters in front of her eyes. The elderly woman said she advised the family to move away from the place when water was seen coming down from the hill tops in a small scale.
”But, they continued their work. Suddenly a portion of the hill, where they were standing, caved in… huge boulders started rolling down accompanied by a massive flood of water… I do not remember anything else,” the teary-eyed woman said. George, a middle-aged man engaged in rescue operations, said it was everything fine and calm in the village till 11 PM on Saturday.
”But, the situation worsened after that. Around 10 big bridges and the same number of wooden bridges were washed away and the village became isolated soon,” he added. The Army, NDRF, police and the Fire Force along with the locals began rescue operations on Sunday morning at Koottickal and Kokkayar panchayats where over a dozen people are listed to be missing due to numerous landslides accompanied by heavy downpour since Saturday.
Officials said rescue operators on Sunday morning recovered four more bodies from Koottickal panchayat taking the toll to eight.