Landslide sweeps away 70 houses, mosque & temple in Wayanad
Exactly a year after Kerala had been plunged into the worst ever floods in its history, nature’s fury seem to have struck the state once again.
Incessant rain in 12 out of 14 districts over the past 48 hours has thrown normal life completely out of gear. Though the monsoon had been scant in the months of June and July, the first week of August has seen the skies opening up with all its might.
The central and northern parts of the state are the worst hit with landslides being the biggest villain wrecking havoc across most of the hilly areas of the state.
Idukki and Wayanad have been hit hard with the latter taking the brunt of the non stop rainfall over the last two days.
The Kochi International Airport remained shut from 9 pm on Thursday after the runway was water logged. Though the airport was initially shut till 12 midnight on Thursday, the restrictions had to be extended till 9 am on Friday as water from the runaway could not be cleared on time. All flights to Kochi have been diverted to Thiruvananthapuram or Kozhikode airports.
The Chief Minister who had called an emergency meeting in the evening that was attended by the revenue minister, the chief secretary and other officials reiterated that the situation in the state is precarious but everything is being done to prevent a repeat of the 2018 calamity.
“News coming in from various areas in the state is quite grim but there is no need to panic. The state government is fully in control of the situation. I have requested people staying along river banks to move to camps which have been opened across the state. There has been a major landslide at Meppady in Wayanad about which we are very concerned. Rescue operations are on but the weather situation is hampering it. Air Force helicopters are also in use,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told media persons.
Official figures till Thursday evening say that nine people have lost their lives and 38 houses have been completely destroyed. Over ten thousand people have been relocated to 156 camps across the state.
Puthumala is a small workers settlement in Mepaddy village in Wayanad. A major landslide on Wednesday night is reported to have swept away the entire settlement including 70 houses, a canteen meant for tea plantation workers, a mosque and a temple which explains the ferocity of the mud and sludge that struck the area.
As per eyewitness reports, one side of a hill caved in, taking with it the entire settlement. When reports last came in, around 10 people had been rescued by NDRF and local residents. But an unknown number of people are still missing in the area.
A column of the Indian Army from Kannur has also been rushed to the spot to assist the rescue operations.
Meanwhile Rahul Gandhi, Member of Parliament from Wayanad called upon Vijayan to enquire upon the ongoing rescue operations in Wayanad.
“I wanted to immediately leave for Wayanad after hearing about the situation there. But since me being there could hamper rescue operations I was advised not to go now. But I have spoken to both the chief minister and the Prime Minister to ensure all help for the people of my constituency,” Gandhi told media persons in Delhi.
With almost all major rivers in spate across the state, Thursday saw flooding across many areas in the state. In Irikkur in Kannur district in north Kerala, most houses were submerged upto the first floor till news last came in.
Nilambur town in Malappuram district has been completely cut off from the rest of the state as almost all roads leading to the town have been submerged.
Many people have been evacuated to safer areas although an unknown number are believed to be still stranded there.
Chengannur in Pathanamthitta district which had seen the worst in terms of destruction as well as loss of life in 2018 was on tenterhooks when this report was being filed as the water level kept rising in the Pampa River.
While those along the banks have been moving to safer areas water is reported to have entered many homes in the area.
“We don’t want a repeat of last year. So even though water is only till our knee level we have decided to move to higher ground,” said an elderly resident, reflecting the panic that had gripped the people there.
With Pampa dam likely to open its shutters on Friday morning, district administration could be heard making announcements late into Thursday night asking people to move to safer areas.
Meanwhile in Palakkad district tribal hamlets of Attapadi are reported to have been completely submerged and cut off.
A pregnant woman among many others is said to be stranded there when reports last came in.
While majorly populated towns like Aluva and Perumbavoor have seen inundation, the tourist destination of Munnar in Idukki district remained cut off for the major part of Thursday. The state government has temporarily banned all tourist activities in Idukki till further notice.
Government has declared a holiday for all educational institutions including professional colleges across 12 of the 14 districts in the state. Only Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam which have not been so far affected by the rain have been left out.
Though twelve dams in the state have opened their shutters the good news is that they are all minor dams and do not fall in the category of the major ones which when opened wreaked havoc across the state in 2018.
But with heavy rains forecast for the next five days across the state, the picture could rapidly change.