‘Dead are gone...must save the living’: Rescue efforts continue in Kerala
Tales of suffering, loss and struggle echo across Kerala as flood survivors try to stitch lives back together.Updated: Aug 20, 2018 11:16 IST
A harried resident rushed to report six bodies floating under Kallissery Bridge at Pandanad in Kerala’s flood-hit Alappuzha district on Sunday. The overwhelmed officials working overtime to deal with the crisis were helpless. There was little they could do. “Even if we retrieve these bodies, we do not have mortuary to store them. Dead are gone but our priority is to save the living ones,” an official said, summing up the mood in Pandanad.
The residents of Pandanad, an affluent village dotted with mansions on the banks of river Pambhas, remained on the edge. An overcast sky threatened to bring more misery as the mansions remained submerged.
“At some places, the water levels have touched above 20-feet. Water currents make our task more difficult,” said Lt Col Aiyappa BM of the army’s engineer regiment, which has been involved in rescue operations since Friday.
An army boat hit a tree as soldiers were trying to rescue an aged couple marooned for four days. The couple had been on the rooftop of their house reluctant to leave because there had been no news about their only son for two days. He had left to fetch water and food and had been stranded on the other side of Pambha in a relief camp. The diabetic couple agreed to leave the marooned house only after they were told their son is fine.
A heart patient rescued 45 minutes later was struggling without medicines. “My blood pressure (BP) is high… my tablets were destroyed in water. So I have been without medicine for two days,” the teary-eyed man told his rescuers. Rushed to Alappuzha medical college, he was recuperating well, officials said.
Residents complained about a delay in the relief operations. Officials said a resident had been clinging onto a tree for two days when he shouted for help. Finally, a navy copter spotted and saved him.
Authorities insisted some people stayed put in their houses thinking the water levels would not reach their rooftops. This worsened the situation, they insisted.
“It is not water alone, slush is coming in a big way from lakes and dams. It makes the place more slippery and some have been swept away,” said P Pramod, who lost his friend three days ago.
At least 30 people were missing from Pandanad and surrounding areas and authorities say they were yet to compile exact casualties.
Residents blamed authorities for failing to take pre-emptive measures. “It is common sense. When catchment areas get heavy rain, dams will be filled. They waited for all dams to fill hoping they can generate more power. When the situation became uncontrollable, they opened all dams together,” said Velaydhan Nair, a retired government employee.
Residents complained food and relief materials were pouring in but there was a lack of co-ordination in distributing them.
The soldiers pleaded helplessness by saying they have to go by the directives of the district administration.
“Initially the situation was really grim. But I think the worst is over,” said Chengannur member of legislative assembly (MLA) Saji Cherian, who broke down while narrating the plight of his people.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier ticked Cherian off for demanding full control for the army in flooded areas.
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First Published: Aug 19, 2018 23:53 IST