With Kerala battling floods unleashed by heavy rain — 165 people have lost their lives since August 8 — the ground zero of the deluge, Idukki district in the Western Ghats, remains the most affected. With a series of landslides adding to the destruction, officials and residents said Idukki has been “cut off from the outside world” since Wednesday.
A ham radio set up at the district headquarters is the primary official mode of communication to send data on water levels to the state headquarters and disaster management experts, officials said. Road and communication networks have “fully collapsed”, they said. “We are running out of provisions and medicines. Many people need to be urgently shifted out of the district for medical treatment. Many areas remain inaccessible, and around 100 houses have been washed away or damaged in landslides,” said a senior government official Friday.
“We are unable to move beyond a few kilometres by road. The police and district administration have been able to conduct rescue and relief work only in areas where they are based. But fuel shortage and lack of power supply are making this task difficult,” the official said. Idukki is the home of popular tourist destinations Munnar and Thekkady — and also of a key dam and two other dams at Kulamavu and Cheruthoni from where water was relased for the first time in 26 years this month.
Father Jijo Kurian, a priest at the Capuchin ashram near Nadukani in Idukki, told The Indian Express that an entire stretch of road connecting Thodupuzha, at the foothills, to the district headquarters was buried in a landslide on Wednesday night. “It will take months to rebuild this stretch as it is on the side of a mountain. Getting the military to build an emergency bridge is the only solution to restore normalcy,” he said.
Also Read | What to expect today
North of Nadukani, about 12 km ahead of the district headquarters, a bridge over a forest river at Meenmutti has been damaged in a landslide. “Heavy vehicles are engaged here in removing the block,” said K R Surendran, a local trader. Several other bridges connecting Periyar and its tributaries have also been washed away or remain submerged.
Other major road routes through Kothamangalam in Kerala and Cumbum in Tamil Nadu have been blocked by landslides, “one every 2-3 kilometres”, said a revenue official. Two major routes connecting Munnar to the plains are also damaged, with no vehicle movement for the last three days, said officials. “Hundreds of people, including tourists, are stuck in Munnar and Adimali (a town on the way to Munnar),” said an official at the control room in Thodupuzha on Thursday night.
“There have been several deaths in Munnar, and huge losses to property and businesses in Kattapana, Nedungandam and other parts of Idukki. Many of these incidents are yet to be officially reported or confirmed,” said a district official at the control room.
With rescue and relief workers unable to reach the affected areas, stranded residents have started reporting an acute shortage of provisions. Officials said that hundreds of vehicles, including those of police and rescue workers, are stuck in various parts of the district.