THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Thought I would drown,” says a scared Syamala, who is sitting in the corner of a relief camp at Kedaram Lane near Cosmopolitan Hospital in Pattom.“It was raining heavily from the afternoon but I didn’t expect the water to rise so much. I thought it would be a repeat of the October-flood. I was woken up at 11 pm due to the sound of water rushing in. The house already had knee-deep water inside. I froze and stayed in bed holding on to my blanket in shock till morning, when help arrived. I thought I would die there,” says the traumatised 70-year-old, who is among the many displaced in the heavy rain that lashed the capital since Wednesday afternoon.
“I was born and brought up here and never have I ever seen or experienced something like this. Flash floods happen but this is terrifying,” Syamala shares. Like Syamala, many city residents living in low-lying areas of the capital were sleepless on Wednesday night as rain wreaked havoc in their lives. According to officials, the city recorded around 149 mm of rain on the day. This left hundreds of families stranded in their own homes as water started rising during the wee hours. Many had to move out and wait outdoors till morning for help. Rajani J, another resident who got displaced, is beyond frustrated.
“This is the third time in the past two months we are experiencing flood. We are not able to live a normal life anymore. I have small children and an 80-year-old grandmother at home. We have to gather our things and flee every time it rains,” Rajani explains.“We called for help at 3 am and the rescue team came only at 7 am.”For 55-year-old Sarojam, who lives in a tiny one-room house on the bank of Pattom Thodu near Murinjapalam, Wednesday was one of the scariest nights.
“Water started overflowing from the canal and flooded my house in no time. By midnight, the power was off and it was pitch dark. Water snakes and all kinds of filth and garbage started gushing inside my house. By 3am my sister and I were out on the street. We live in a very old house and it might get washed away one day,” shares Sarojam.
Recurring flash floods triggered by extreme weather conditions are becoming an unsettling experience for many residents. In October, the city faced a similar flash flood but apart from meetings and site visits by ministers and departments concerned nothing much has happened on the ground. The low-lying areas that were marooned in October are still facing the same ordeal.
Though the rain stopped in the morning hours of Thursday, the water overflowing from canals and drains did not recede till the afternoon, leaving hundreds of families displaced. Around 250 houses in Pattom were inundated by flood water.
Gowreesapattom, Marappalam, Pattom, Murinjapalam and Kannamoola areas were the worst affected. According to official sources, the amount of rain received was much higher on Wednesday compared to
the rain that happened in October.When contacted, the official sources continued to blame the breakwater at Veli adding that they were in the field all night assessing the situation.
“The breakwater at Veli was open until morning and later in the day it got closed and we opened it immediately. But because of the high tide situation, there was no flow to the ocean,” says an official with the major irrigation department.Following the flash flood in October, the major irrigation department had launched a cleaning and desilting drive for Ulloor and Kannamoola Thodu. According to official sources, only 25 per cent of the work has been completed.
“The contractor is unable to do the work daily due to extreme weather. We are trying our best to complete it. The actual deadline was 100 days,” the official says.“The Akkulam Lake, if cleaned, can hold and contain the flood water,” the official explains. According to the official, the desilting of Akkulam Lake will be able to give a huge relief to urban flooding.
More funds to combat flooding: Mayor
With flash floods becoming a major concern, the corporation has decided to allot more funds for wards to carry out cleaning drives. “Compared to the last flooding in October, this time it’s less severe. We have been in the field and have identified certain issues. Three camps have been opened at Kunnukuzhy, Pattom and Muttathara. All arrangements are in place to ensure everybody at the camps is comfortable. We are tense as there is a yellow alert for Trivandrum today and we hope it won’t rain heavily like yesterday and make things worse,” says Mayor Arya Rajendran. The civic body will allot Rs2 to Rs3 lakh for each ward to organise cleaning drives similar to premonsoon drives, she says. “We are closely monitoring the activities being undertaken by other departments. We have given directions to all the departments to step up and execute the work in a time-bound manner.”