Cheruthoni: It was on August 17 that she received a call late in the night informing her that her brother had been in an accident and that she needed to rush home. Kuku, a trainee nurse in Kolkata, reached home the next day to find her home in Upputhodu in Idukki district completely destroyed.
A landslide hit her house around 9:30pm on August 17. Her parents, brother and a friend of her brother were in the house when disaster struck. “It was raining heavily that night. I remember it was around 9:15-9:30 when we heard rumbling and stepped out to see that the houses of our neighbours were completely destroyed,” said Mathachan, a resident.
Kuku’s continues to wait for her mother’s body. Rescue teams failed to retrieve the body from the rubble. Her father, brother and his friend were found dead.
“They only found one of her legs and that too a few kilometres down the hill,” said another resident. The search for her body was carried on for 4-5 days but in vain. “When the entire area gets cleared off, maybe we’ll find her,” the resident added.
With no house and family to go back to, Kuku is now being looked after by the church in her area. While she is set to receive the compensation for the dead, the young woman has requested the state government for a job as a nurse. She is yet to get a reply.
In Gandhinagar colony, Mani and Sharanya continue to stay in the relief camp as the last surviving members of their family. They lost their two boys, aged four and one, and Mani’s parents. The youngest child was found wrapped in his grandfather’s lap, 3-4 days after a landslide struck them.
Their family members are among the six who were killed on August 15 around 4:30 pm when a landslide hit a shop and a few houses. Among the others who were killed were an auto rickshaw driver and a lady who was about to take the rickshaw. Ward member Jalaluddin, while speaking to News18, said that work for clearing the debris and helping the affected families was being done by the residents and other volunteers. “The police and fire force also helped,” he added.
Two bodies were buried at the graveyard near the medical college. “But it was full of water, so the bodies started floating as we lowered them. So first we drained out the water and then buried them,” said Jalaluddin. Mani and Sharanya’s family members were cremated on the road itself.
He further added that despite visits by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the collector, the bereaved were yet to be given any compensation.
The district also saw its government Arts College being completely destroyed by a landslide. No student or teacher was present at the time of the incident but the campus stands ravaged.
Idukki was hit hard by one landslide after the other, making it one of the worst affected districts in all of Kerala. Close to 52 people have been reported dead in the district and more than 160 properties ravaged by landslides.
There are another 400 odd houses that can still collapse and more than 1500 that are partially damaged. Parts of the district are still isolated and vehicular movement is still restricted.
In Peringala, residents claim that while the district authorities came to check on the affected families and record the damages, nothing has been done so far. Those who were put in the relief camp in schools have been asked to leave the camp as schools were re-opening.
“We were asked to look for rented places and the officials told us they would pay the rent. We don’t know when and how that will happen. The houses that we have found were flooded again as it rained. What’s the point of getting rice and other items if we have no safe place to stay?” asked Leela Amma, a resident.