In what has become the unprecedented natural calamity, the landslide in Munnar, Kerala as the sequel of heavy rains had so far claimed the lives of 49 people after the rescue operations had ended up exhuming six more bodies on Monday. As the rescue operations are still on the ground with having dozens of people missing, the death toll is feared to soar further.
It's now four days since the houses of the workers of the tea estates in Pettimudi, Rajamala in Kerala's Idukki district had buried in a landslide following the heavy shower in the hilly district. Around 80 plantation workers were lived in the quarters that were buried by a huge mound due to the landslide that occurred in the wee hours of Friday. Having less communication and road access, and bad weather, the relief efforts were impeded for a day.
On Friday, the bodies of 17 people were retrieved from the debris while nine more on Saturday and 17 more on Sunday which taken the death toll to 43 and on Monday, the rescuers retrieved six more bodies which had taken the toll to 49 and around 22 people are still missing and the authorities have been searching their whereabouts under the muddy rubble. According to the reports, these six bodies were recovered from the Pettimudi stream that flows near the quarters, and the bodies were found around 2 kilometers from the quarters.
The on-ground workers said that search operations would be a rigid task as the flow of debris was heavy and the water could have swept away some of the victims into the river. On Sunday, Kerala Forest Minister K Raju had visited the spot and said that the search would continue till all the missing people are found and the agencies of the state and the team of National Disaster Relief Force (NDRA) with 200 personnel are on the ground and carrying out the rescue operations.
Many of the deceased belong to Tamil Nadu and their kins have come to the spot after getting a two-day entry pass to Kerala amid the COVID-19 lockdown. They have surrounded the spot and hoped to see someone is alive under the debris. To their shock, the rescue operations hadn't recovered any alive person and while dozens are still missing, it's feared that the death toll may increase. According to the sources, 90 percent of people who worked in Kannan Devan tea estate, which belongs to Tata, were Tamil people.
The heavy rains and landslide have largely washed out the area and due to the lack of proper communication access, the local district administration wasn't informed about the incident and some of the survivors had informed the administration about the tragedy following which the state government came onto the ground. Pettimudi area sits 15 kilometers far from the remote village of Rajamala near Munnar in Idukki district.
During the rescue mission on Sunday, the rescuers had recovered the body of a six-month-old infant which further saddened the frontline workers who are hoping to find at least one alive. The infant's mother Gayatri and the rest of the family had also died in the landslide. Amid heavy rains, the rescue operations have been ongoing and the operations are combinedly been carried out by the state police, NDRF, and Fire department.
According to the Rajamala district panchayat president, the autopsy of the dead bodies that were retrieved on Saturday had conducted on the same day in Pettimudi and the movements of vehicles from Rajamala have been restricted since it would impact the rescue operations. The reports say the bodies and the belongings, that were swept by the river, could have thrown away for five kilometers and with the shocking developments, the reports say the hilly district has left with the littel hope as the rainfall had filled the district with tears.
As the dreadful landslide had devasted the lives and livelihoods of the plantation workers, the Kerala government has, on Saturday, announced Rs 5 lakh for the victims of the landslide while it has announced Rs 10 lakh for the families of the victims who died of the Air India Express plane crash at the Kozhikode International Airport.
In a heartbreaking incident, 18 members of a family had died due to the landslide as their hopes and lives vanished in a night. On the other hand, the BJP and the opposition parties have charged the ruling CPM government by citing that the state government has declared compensation for the families that won't adequate.
BJP leader and Union Minister V Muraleedharan said that the Chief Minister should not neglect the poor people and there should be no grounds of discrimination in providing the compensation. However, the Chief Minister said that the announced compensation is only the initial announcement and the state government would ensure to provide all support for the victims and affected families.