Natural Disasters

Kerala rains: 24 landslides in 24 hours, 22 killed, 22,165 moved

A landslide in Kavalappara village in Malappuram district has 30 houses buried under it  

By Rejimon Kuttappan
Published: Friday 09 August 2019
A view of rescue team in Wayanad district, Kerala. Photo: Rejimon K
A view of rescue team in Wayanad district, Kerala. Photo: Rejimon K A view of rescue team in Wayanad district, Kerala. Photo: Rejimon K

Kerala, which is been hit by incessant rainfall, witnessed 24 landslides in the last 24 hours spiking the death toll to 22 on August 9, 2019. Nearly 22,165 people have been shifted to relief camps.

Heavy rains have been battering the coastal state since August 7 and have thrown normal life out of gear. This is after the 2018 floods — the worst in the state's history — that killed nearly 500 people and incurred a loss of Rs 31,000 crore worth damages.

Of the 14 districts in Kerala, nine in the north have been put on red alert; three in central on orange alert, while two in south on yellow alert.

Across the state, 315 flood relief camps have been opened, according to an update from Kerala chief minister’s office.

“These camps now host 22,165 people from 5,936 families. Wayanad has 105 camps, the highest in the state,” an official from the CM’s office said. Heavy rain, broken bridges and road blockades have hampered rescue operations. There is also no power supply in the worst-affected areas.

A massive landslide at Kavalappara village in Malappuram district reportedly buried 30 of the 70 houses around 7 pm on August 8. 

Many are feared to be dead, according to media reports at 2 pm on August 9. 

A massive landslide at Kavalappara village in Malappuram district has reportedly buried 30 of the 70 houses. Many are feared to be dead, according to media reports at 2 pm on August 9. 

However, the incident occured around 7 pm on August 8, claimed the local residents. 

Due to a broken bridge, the area was inaccessible and heavy rains stalled rescue operations even by helicopters.

“We have been seeking help since then. But we got a cold response. At around 2 pm, we heard that a rescue team is coming. It is quite scary,” Sujit, a resident in Kavalappara, told Down to Earth (DTE).

A similar landslide occured at Puthumala near Meppadi in the Wayanad district around 5 pm on August 8 that buried a large area under debris, sparking fear that several people might have gone missing, according to media reports.

An entire hill slope came crushing down over several acres which housed two residential quarters of a tea estate, apart from a temple and a mosque, said forest officials, who could reach the area only by 9 pm. They rescued 10 people and shifted them to a nearby hospital.

The death toll in the area could be at least 40, according to unconfirmed reports. So far seven dead bodies have been recovered from there. 

“I thought the world was being washed away,” said Gopalan, a resident of Puthumala, told DTE.

“I saw a huge hill crumbling down burying everything on its way. I was returning after buying candles from a shop. Due to wind, a live wire broke and fell in front of me. Sensing danger, I ran to a highland, where I saw the impending landslide. I called up my wife and told her to move to a higher place. Luckily, we both are safe now,” he added.

Big dams like Idduki, Pamba, Kakki, Sholayar, Idamalayar, Kundla and Mattupetti are holding less than 30 per cent water, said a senior official from Kerala State Electricity Board, brushing aside rumours that all dams in the state have been opened.

“Only a few small dams have been opened. Situation is under control,” the official added.

Meanwhile, to assist the civil administration in rescue operations in the flood affected areas, the Indian Army has shifted around 60 personnel to northern districts of Wayanad, Kannur, Iritty, Kozhikode and Thamrassery and also to Virajpet in the Coorg districit of Karnataka.

The Pangode Military Station in Thiruvananthapuram has deployed three columns (one column consists of around 62 personnel) one each at Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and Ernakulam. 

The bases under Southern Air Command have also been put on high alert.

The air base at Sulur in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu has 12 helicopters including Mi-17 V5 and ALH kept ready. 

The Indian Coast Guard has also deployed 16 teams including three in Beypore in Kozhikode district. Two teams are already taking part in the rescue operations, while one has been kept on standby. The remaining 10 are in Kochi and three in Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram are on standby.

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