‘Where Are You?’: Survivors on Vigil For Idukki Landslide Victims
Today, the ones who survived are grappling with loss and grief, still looking for their loved ones to be discovered.
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Producer: Smitha TK
Green pastures, tea plantations as far as the eye can see, and green, blue, pink sarees laid over the fence as the chatter of the people is interrupted by the chirping of the birds.
Today, the same place in Munnar’s Pettimudi wears a torn look with houses buried inside the muddy hills, and incessant rains creating streams of water in the roads once travelled.
It has been over 10 days since a horrific landslide took place at the Kannan Devan tea estate in Idukki district. The settlement of 83 tea estate workers was crushed overnight and during these hours, the surviving workers were helpless in the marooned village, with no power or communication network.
Today, the ones who survived are grappling with loss and grief, still hoping for their loved ones to be discovered.
Generations of Families No More
Three generations of Vijayalakshmi’s family have been completely wiped off.
29 people in her family have died, including her daughter, son, grand children, in-laws and their children.
“Except for one boy, everyone is no more. Not even a baby was spared. A 6-month-old child, my grand-daughter who was just nine years old, five-year-old grandson… all of them are gone. My daughter was only 28 years old and my daughter-in-law was only 32 years old. I don’t even know what to make of life anymore,” she told The Quint.
All she hopes is to give them a decent burial but the search for their bodies is still going on.
“For days, we've been looking and they've still not discovered my son. I just want my son in my hands. I am not even expecting any help,” she cried.
There are two children who have survived in her family and she said she has no idea how to take care of them, having lost everything in life.
Death Toll Rises Daily as More Bodies are Discovered
The death toll has crossed 55 as on 14 August.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Governor Arif Mohammad Khan reviewed the area on 13 August and spoke to the survivors, assuring their help.
Survivors Recall How Their Homes Were Marooned
It has been raining heavily since the beginning of August. When the showers became intense on the afternoon of 6 August, many began considering moving out but since the area is known to witness heavy rains, they held on.
“On 6 August, It was 10.30 at night that we heard a sound, like that of a vehicle. In about 10 seconds, our cots began shaking,” recounted one of the residents.
When they came out to see, they saw the mud from the hills slipping down and trees were swaying violently. The mist and heavy rains made it difficult to figure out the intensity of the landslide, they said.
“The neighbour called out to my sister Sarasamma and said water was gushing down the hill. When I went to open the back door, I saw the water had risen to hip level. The compound wall was sinking,” said another woman.
A few of them tried to grab the kids and elderly and run to safety but for many others it was too late and the cascading waters had engulfed them.
The Kerala government had sanctioned Rs 5 lakhs and the centre Rs 2 lakhs as interim relief for the families of the deceased.
Six forest staff including two watchers have also lost their lives in the tragedy.
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