With 11 dead bodies yet to be retrieved from the depths of the landslide site at Kavalappara in Kerala’s Malappuram district, authorities, locals and kin of the missing came to a joint conclusion Tuesday to suspend rescue operations as conditions were too difficult to continue working.
Over the last 18 days, a total of 48 bodies had been dug up through joint operations of the Army, Fire Force, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local agencies in one of the biggest landslide sites the state has ever seen.
Prajesh, a rescue worker with Trauma Care who was present at the spot over the last several weeks, said, “Over the last six days or so, we were unable to find bodies of the missing at Kavalappara. Anywhere that the locals pointed us to look, we searched relentlessly. Using earth-moving machines, we dug as much as we could. Honestly, I think we did all that we could.”
“When it rains, the debris gets sticky and slippery. Even earth-moving machines have limitations, you see. Many of the homes are buried under 10-12 ft deep debris, so the remaining bodies are likely to be there as well,” he added. Hundreds of Trauma Care workers, who pitched to help in the rescue operations of floods last year, worked round-the-clock at the landslide sites of Kavalappara, Meppadi and Vaniyamkulam this year.
The tahsildar at the local Taluk office in Nilambur confirmed the difficulties in rescue operations. “Many of the bodies are buried very deep where we cannot reach because the debris is slippery. We have done everything possible within our limits.”
A team of scientists from the National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad who had arrived at Kavalappara to help rescue agencies track the location of dead bodies using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) system were unsuccessful as the mud was too slimy for the technology to function.
Malappuram district collector Jaffer Malik held discussions with the kin of the missing at the panchayat office in Pothukallu where he assured them that government aid, meant for families of the deceased, would be given to them. Those who have lost their homes in the tragedy and are currently housed at relief camps will be transferred. The government offers Rs 10 lakh for families who have lost their home and land.