Rain fury abates: Rahul Gandhi rushes aid to flood-hit Wayanad as death toll rises to 110
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has rushed eleven truckloads of food and essentials to his flood-hit constituency Wayanad in north Kerala on Friday as rescue officials retrieved four more bodies from underneath debris, taking the toll to 110.
Party leaders said the fresh consignment carried 50,000 kg rice and other essentials like sugar, salt and different varieties of pulses. Besides food, the consignment also carried bed sheets, blankets and mats, they said. “We have prepared a kit containing all items and it will benefit at least 10,000 affected families,” said UDF Wayanad convener N D Appachhan, adding Gandhi will visit his constituency again by month end.
He had visited Wayanad last week-- his constituency falls in two districts, Wayanad and Malappuram. Leaders said a portion of this aid came from his MP fund and the rest was collected by party workers from various states.
Heavy rain and landslides had wreaked havoc in many parts of the state especially in north Kerala for the past one week leaving a trail of death and destruction. During the floods some areas like Nilambur and Meppadi had received 30 cms of rain in a day, said weather officials. As the rains abated, rescue officials have intensified their search for the missing in Kavalapara and Puthumala, which bore the maximum brunt of landslides. At least 30 people are still missing from these two places. The highest toll is in Malappuram 42, followed by Kozhikkode 17 and Wayanad 16.
The latest disaster has reopened the discussion on rampant exploitation of the Western Ghats mountain ranges by quarry and constructions lobbies. At least 84 landslides were reported in Kerala this time. More than drowning, a majority of people perished in landslides-- out of 110 at least 85 people died in landslides.
Experts said during heavy rains hilly areas turn porous and break instantly pushing rock, mud and debris down the slope in force with little or no warning. At times there will be a deafening sound but sometimes there won’t be any sign. Due to the breaking impact, slush and debris will travel for kilometres together changing the landscape, they said. In Kavalapara, a village has vanished completely. With accumulated mud still loose and slushy, recue officials are finding it difficult to search for the missing.
Former chief minister V S Achuthanandan, also touted as a champion of the green cause, came out openly supporting the Madhav Gadgil report on the Western Ghats. In a Facebook post, the veteran Marxist said even a small child in the state knows uncontrolled quarrying and filling up of wetlands are the root cause of calamities in Kerala.
When the Gadgil report came out, the CPI(M), which was in opposition, openly criticised it and started a vigorous campaign against it. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the party had fielded Congress leader Joyce George, who led a struggle against the report, as an independent and wrested the seat. Later he joined the CPI(M) and in the 2019 polls he lost to Dean Kuriakose of the Congress.