Kerala floods: The ‘terrifying Thursday’ which brought darkness upon Kavalappara

The night of ‘terrifying Thursday’ is seared in the memory of Sunil Kumar, 39. Usually, he went to bed by 9 pm.

Published: 13th August 2019 05:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th August 2019 12:46 PM   |  A+A-

The landslide area at Kavalappara, Bhoothanam, in Nilambur| A Sanesh

Express News Service

KAVALAPPARA (NILAMBUR): The night of ‘terrifying Thursday’ is seared in the memory of Sunil Kumar, 39. Usually, he went to bed by 9 pm.

But on an eventful day, he turned in around 8 pm as Bhoothanam, Kavalappara near Nilambur in Malappuram district, where his family lives, had been without power for the previous two days after the rain gained momentum nearly a week ago.

The mobile phones didn’t have battery charge and other than the roar of lashing rain, there was deafening silence.

Kerala floods: How negligence and greed led to the Kavalappara tragedy

By 8 pm, it started to rain very heavily. Soon Sunil Kumar’s household was roused from sleep by a rumbling noise.

“But I couldn’t recognise the sound except that there was a tremor from the ground lasting barely a second. I knew something had crashed to the ground. Initially, I thought it was a thunderstorm since the rain was ferocious,” said Sunil Kumar, who was among the incredibly lucky few, whose house survived the calamity.

“Since we had been without power, I got out with a small battery torch. But I could hardly see anything beyond a distance of 10 m due to poor visibility. Besides, the torch was not charged properly due to the power outage. When I looked at the house nearby, there was complete darkness. Except for the ‘blinding’ darkness, I didn’t find anything amiss."

"However, the water which gushed into our settlement was unusually muddy,” he said.

According to Sunil Kumar, by then he sensed that something was indeed seriously wrong.  

“Normally, the neighbours raise an alarm by clanging their cooking utensils. But there was an eerie silence except the roar of the rain. I was scared to venture out further and returned to bed since my family members were anxious. But the unusually dark night and the rumbling noise disturbed my sleep,” he said.

The morning after, to my great surprise, the entire colony where I lived all my life had vanished and there was only a heap of mud as the nearby hillock caved in.  

“I have lived all my life in the village, but never witnessed such a disaster before, except a minor landslip. We are lucky as our lives were spared. But a life without our dear ones and friends is unbearable,” he said, fighting back tears.

Krishnan Athikukkam, whose house too miraculously survived the landslide, said, “My family and myself were called to my brother’s house as he was away. After the rain intensified, he called up asking me to rush to his house since a mudslip had occurred in the colony last year. But this time round, we were hardly bothered as the geologists ruled out such a possibility. If there was any such warning, indeed the colony residents would have moved into relief camps just like last year,” he said. 


  • Landslide triggered at 8 pm on Thursday. 

  • It was estimated that 63 people from 19 families got buried under debris. 

  • The landslide pushed the debris to around 1.5-km down the hill.

  • First vehicle got access to Kavalappara by 2 pm on Friday.

  • 44 bodies feared trapped under the landslide debris.

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