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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

When a massive landslide grounded a scenic plantation village in Wayanad

Located over 20 kms from district headquarters of Kalpetta here,Puthumala was rocked by a series of massive landslides following unprecedented rains last evening.

kerala Updated: Aug 09, 2019 15:46 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Landslide site in Wayanad’s Puthumala .
Landslide site in Wayanad’s Puthumala . (HT Photo )

It was a scenic tea plantation village with green pastures, lofty hills and plunging valleys till Thursday evening.

But, incessant rains and massive landslides have turned Puthumala at Meppadi near here,into a pool of mud and filth, flattening the hilly curves, uprooting trees and washing away all signs of an inhabited village.

Located over 20 kms from district headquarters of Kalpetta here,Puthumala was rocked by a series of massive landslides following unprecedented rains last evening.

It is suspected that several people may have lost their lives and large number of houses and other buildings including a temple and a mosque were destroyed.

A portion of a towering hill came down completely and huge mound of earth between two hills caved in,grounding every structure in the valley, eyewitnesses said.

Over 100 acres of land and plantations and structures were suspected to have been grounded.

As the whole area was isolated and communication facilities were totally cut off, a full-fledged rescue operation could not be taken up on Thursday night though Army and NDRF personnel were rushed to the spot.

As the roads were blocked, rescue officials had to trek forest paths to reach the places devastated by the landslides.

According to Disaster Management authorities, two bodies were recovered on Friday morning and rescue and search operations to trace whether more people were trapped beneath the rubble is continuing on a war-footing.

Local people said at least 40 people, including migrant workers lived in the colony of plantation workers, were present when the catastrophe happened.

“I came out of my house hearing a startling sound from the hills. It was shocking to see a huge mound of earth caving in and big boulders coming down along with water gushing from above. I don’t remember anything other than that,” a local woman, who is yet to come to terms with the tragedy, said.

She was one among several people who escaped unhurt from Puthumala and was later shifted to a make-shift relief camp in Meppadi in the district.

“We ran out of our houses in our nighties, clutching babies in our hands. We could not take anything. We are clueless whether our houses are still there or grounded. No one knows how many of houses are still there and how many have been washed away,” the woman added.

Another woman could be seen pleading in a temporary relief camp to shift them to a safer place.

“We were staying at the estate workers’ colony in Puthumala. Roads and bridges were washed away. We don’t know how to move to a safer place. Children are hungry... though the authorities gave us biscuits, the children are not eating... they demand rice,” she said.

An elderly local man said the place had been witnessing incessant rains and landslides for two or three days.

He also recounted that the hilly region had suffered a similar massive landslide three decades ago.

As the approach road to the mishap site is completely destroyed, local people and rescue personnel had to walk at least 6 km to bring the injured to nearby hospitals.

There was no power in the area since the past three days and so no communication was possible, local people said.

High-range Wayanad, the Lok Sabha constituency of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, was one of the places which had suffered the worst destruction in the 2018 August deluge.