Rescue workers finally managed to reach Kavalappara village in Malappuram, Kerala, on Saturday noon, two days after a hill came down following incessant rain, burying more than a dozen houses and at least 46 people. A full-fledged search operation had to wait as forces and rescue workers could not be mobilised to the spot due to heavy rain and landslides along the way. On Saturday, even as the men, aided by locals rummaging through the debris for their friends and relatives, were carrying out rescue, another portion of the hill came down in the area, which is spread over vast coconut and rubber plantations.
The victims had been taken by surprise by the landslide, which sent a blanket of slurry and rubble into their houses, on Thursday night.
Malappuram District Superintendent of Police U V Abdul Kareem said as per reports, 19 houses with 46 people were buried under at Kavalappara. “Some sources said around 60 people are trapped. We are verifying that. So far, nine bodies have been retrieved.”
Vijayan, one of the survivors, said during last year’s heavy rain, these families had been shifted to camps. However, many of them stayed put this time confident that the hill behind their houses would stand strong, like it had done in 2018, he said.
Others in the village, however, contested this, saying this time there was no warning from officials.
In neighbouring Wayanad, search continued for survivors at Puthumala, where a landslide wiped out a small settlement of plantation workers. “So far nine bodies have been recovered and search is on for the missing persons. We are also relocating people,” said local legislator C K Saseendran.
Three days of heavy rain so far have seen 80-odd landslides and flooding in river basins across eight districts in Kerala, with the official death toll touching 57, most of them from Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad. Till Saturday, 1.65 lakh people had been shifted to relief camps while more persons were being ferried to safe zones.
The Met Department has predicted another day of extremely heavy rain in North Kerala.
At Vaniyambalam in Malappuram, around 200 people, including tribals and forest officials, are trapped since a bridge leading to the tribal settlement collapsed. The government is rushing aid to them with the help of the Army and NDRF, and is planning to air-drop food packets.
Elsewhere in Kerala, particularily the central parts, a flood-like situation has crippled life with rail and road traffic coming to a halt in many stretches. Flight operations at Cochin International Airport, suspended since Thursday night, would resume on Sunday afternoon.