Three days after a row of quarters on a tea estate in Kerala’s Idukki district was buried in a landslide, 20 people continue to be missing. Rescue workers on Sunday managed to retrieve 17 more bodies from the rubble and sludge, taking the death toll in the incident to 43.
Following heavy rain, a hillock on the tea plantation at Rajamala, a remote village near Munnar, had come down, burying the estate quarters in the early hours of Friday. Out of the 78 people who lived in the quarters, 15 could be saved during the rescue work that was impeded for nearly a day due to bad weather and lack of road access.
Forest Minister K Raju, who visited the spot on Sunday, said the search would continue till all the missing persons are accounted for. “All agencies of the state and a 200-strong NDRF team are actively engaged in the search, which has been expanded now. Incessant rain and poor visibility have affected the search,’’ he said.
Many of the workers killed in the incident had relatives in Tamil Nadu and scores reached the spot from the neighbouring state after obtaining a two-day entry pass amid Covid restrictions. As the earthmovers rummaged through the debris, they eagerly looked for some sign of their dear ones.
Meanwhile, the Opposition has targeted the ruling CPM, saying that the compensation declared for families of the victims is not adequate.
On Saturday, the government declared a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the families of those who died in the airport mishap in Kozhikode. And, the compensation declared for families of those killed in the landslide is Rs 5 lakh each.
Union Minister V Muraleedharan, who visited Rajamala, told the media that CM Pinarayi Vijayan should not “neglect the poor people”. “There should not be any discrimination in giving compensation,’’ he said.
The Chief Minister countered the allegation, saying the compensation is only an initial announcement and that the government would ensure all support for the victims.
With the rivers overflowing, fear has gripped the downstream towns in Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts in central Kerala.