Puthumala tragedy: A year after Kerala village was wiped out, residents still in distress

"Most of the people here had some cultivation like pepper, cardamon, coffee etc. But the landslide converted their land into a graveyard of rubble and made it non-cultivable," laments a resident

Published: 08th August 2020 04:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 08th August 2020 04:32 PM   |  A+A-

The scene at Puthumala a day after the landslide on August 9, 2019

Express News Service

KOZHIKODE: Basheer T C of Puthumala in Wayanad vividly remembers August 8 last year -- the day an entire village was completely wiped out in a landslide.

"There were minor landslips occurred hours before and as a result the small stream flowing amid the tea estate was gushing with water. It was about 4.20 PM in the evening and we were watching the strong undercurrent from the bridge. Suddenly an avalanche happened from the Pachakkad side atop and trees and soil were seen rocketing to the air. Within seconds a huge portion of earth, trees and gravel came down followed by gushing of water which swept away the village," Basheer told The New Indian Express.

Puthumala Post Office, Chamundeshwary temple, Puthumala Mosque, the canteen of the tea estate of Harrison Malayalam and two padees (settlements) of tea estate labourers were completely gone. Puthumala, a teeming tea estate village in Meppadi gram panchayat, was thus swept away into oblivion.

Basheer was lucky enough to run away before the small bridge on which he stood was was washed away. Avaran and Aboobacker, two senior citizens and friends, were heading to Pachakkad in a white Maruti Swift when big waves of water rushed in from the hill. The current washed away the car, brought it back once and again washed it away. Of the 17 casualties, the bodies of five are yet to be traced.

"A year later, nothing has changed. We are scared to go to the spot. Many who lost houses are still in rented houses and some are staying with relatives. They are still in distress," says Basheer.

Hameed Pilathottathil, another resident of Puthumala, says that many who lost their agricultural land are now engaged as daily wagers. "Most of the people here had some cultivation like pepper, cardamon, coffee etc. But the landslide converted their land into a graveyard of rubble and made it non-cultivable," he laments.

52 houses at Puthumala Rehabilitation Project

For 52 families who lost their houses and property at Puthumala, alternate houses are being built at Poothakolli Estate in Kottapady village.

"A house having 657 sqft area plus 7 cents of land is being allotted to each of the 52 families. Six more families should be rehabilitated here. Rs 10 lakh is the cost of construction for each house of which the government will cover 4 lakh and the rest through sponsorship. Puthumala Rehabilitation Project is a major project of the government," says Wayanad district collector Adeela Abdulla.

Another 43 people had received Rs 10 lakh each from the state government and they found properties and houses at convenient places. It was upon the insistence of 58 families that they wish to live together like in Puthumala that the district administration found a plot at Poothakolli which was sponsored by the 'Mathrubhumi' group. Meppadi gram panchayat president K K Sahad said Puthumala is slowly limping back to normalcy. "The authorities had paid the first six months of rent for 63 families through sponsorship," he said.

Heavy rain this year also

Puthumala had received more than 500 mm of rainfall last August. This year also, nearby areas of Chooralmala and Mundakai are getting more than 250 mm of rainfall continuously in the last three days. Mundakai, where a landslide occurred on Friday morning, is hardly 2.5 km away from Puthumala.

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