In a virtual action replay of the Kavalappara landslide in Malappuram in which a part of overhead hill came down crashing down on a village of coconut farms, burying dozen of homes with their occupants, four buildings that housed workers of Tata’s Kannan Devan tea estate in Munnar’s Rajamala in Idukki were devoured by mud and rocks rolling down in a landslide on a hill three km away.
Most curiously, the Rajamala tragedy, which is feared to have claimed the lives of over 50 people, has occurred on the first anniversary of the Kavalappara landslide, in which 46 people had perished in exactly similar circumstances.
The incident occurred some time on the night of Thursday, but the outside world came to know about it only 12 hours later when inhabitants of neighbouring areas walked down 8 km to inform the nearest forest office about the tragedy. A number of landslides along the way had cut off access to the area while telecommunication and power supply had remained disrupted for three days.
Further, a bridge on the road connecting the area got washed away in the gushing waters, making it all the more difficult for rescue teams and their equipment to reach the site. The state government has sought the help of the Air Force for the rescue operations, but the inclement weather was hampering aerial operations.
The state government has announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh for each of the dead and free treatment for all the affected people. In addition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Rs 2 lakh each from the PM’s relief fund.
To make matters more difficult for the authorities, heavy rains are lashing most districts of the state, causing flooding and widespread damage to houses in a number of places. A red alert has been declared in the districts of Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki and Wayanad, which had borne the brunt of the devastating deluge of 2018.
Extremely heavy rains have been forecast for the next two days, aggravating the danger. Shutters have been opened in as many as 17 dams, causing rivers to be in spate. More shutters are likely to be opened over the next days as the catchment areas of the dams are receiving incessant heavy rain.
Scenes of Thriveni over Pampa river in Sabarimala, and the submerged Shiva temple of Aluva on the bank of the Periyar river are showing a picture reminiscent of the 2018 deluge.
Relief camps have already been set up in some of the affected areas and the authorities are bracing up for more trouble ahead. The operations this time are also hampered by the ongoing fight against Covid, which have strict protocols in terms of accommodating people in relief camps.