As a team of 120 NDRF personnel prepares to leave Devamatha CMI Public School in Thrissur town to reach the marooned town of Ernakulam, the school principal places a request with them. “My parents and sister are stranded on the roof of their house in Ernakulam, would it be possible to find and rescue them?” he asks an NDRF commandant. “Send me the details of your parents and exact location on Whatsapp, we will see what can be done,” the commandant tells the priest, who has helped arrange a meal for the NDRF men.
In the last two days, principal Shaju Edamanna has made two attempts to travel with a teacher from the college to Ernakulam. “We had to return on both days because bridges connecting Ernakulam were flooded and the local authorities turned us back,” says Joel Francis, the teacher at Devamatha who tried to take Fr Edamanna to Ernakulam.
On Friday morning, after he returned to Thrissur, Fr Edamanna received information that 52 people were marooned at the Jerusalem Retreat Centre run by the CMI priests at Thalore, around 30 km from Thrissur. By afternoon, Fr Edamanna and other personnel had rescued all 52 staffers and pilgrims.
“The water started entering the centre on the evening of Independence Day, and rose to till the ceiling fan by Thursday evening. We had to move to the upper floors,” says Kochurani, an administrator of the CMI retreat centre as she arrived in Thrissur after being rescued by Fr Edapan and a rescue team.
“I was at the Jerusalem Centre the whole day, but my family is stranded in Ernakulam. I just managed to establish contact with them. They say they are safe. I hope they are not saying so just to make me feel better,” says Fr Edapan.
With Thrissur town cut off from the rest of Kerala — like dozens of towns in the state — in the aftermath of the floods in the state last week, the relief camp at Devamatha College is one of the more than a dozen camps set up in the town in the last couple of days.
“There were 52 people stranded at the CMI centre, there were 20 nuns at a camp. They have all been rescued. There are 1,500 people stranded at the Divine Centre in Chalakudy. Helicopters have not been able to rescue them because they don’t have a flat roof. We hope the NDRF or police will rescue them,” says Francis, the teacher.
The release of water from Pichi as well as Vazhanji and Poomala dams is the reason Thrissur is flooded, say locals. “We never expected the water to rise above the ankle. It has never happened before. Water rising to chest height inside our houses was a shock,” says Shanta, a resident of the Scheduled Caste colony in Thrissur town, where 12 families were evacuated and put up at Kerala Varma College, one of the relief centres.