Kerala is once again face to face with a flood situation. Reports tell storeis of huge losses caused by heavy and continuous showers all over the state, ratifying met forecasts. A heart-rending tragedy happened in the form of a landslip in Pettimudi, near Rajamala in Idukki. It may take days before getting a real picture of the extent of tragedy in the area populated by plantation workers. Four layams (line of housing quarters) with 20 residential units were buried under debris caused by the landslip. It is feared that about 80 persons were caught inside the massive landslide. As we write this, 15 dead bodies have been recovered. Twelve people were rescued and 55 more are yet to be located. It is several months since communications were cut off in Pettimudy, surrounded by hills on all three sides. Rescue operations have been rendered difficult due to the incessant rains for the last ten days, power outage and disruption of road traffic. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been deployed in Rajamala to lead the challenging rescue oprations being conducted jointly by the forest department, police force and the local people.
In addition to Idukki, reports of landslide, though not equally alarming, have been coming from hilly areas of Wayanad, Kannur and Malappuram districts. It will help mitigate the extent of damage by taking a lesson from the experience of previous years, and by evacuating residents from hazard-prone areas to safer locations. Although losses have been reported in the neighbourhood of Punchirimattam tribals' colony in Mundakkai, Meppadi of Wayanad district, people were spared thanks to their being shifted in advance to safer pockets. The unusually heavy rains have also caused the water level in most rivers to rise, and low-lying areas have been inundated with waterlogging all around.
Rivers like Manimala, Pullakayar, Azhuthayar, Meenail and Pampayaar have been overflowing. Pala, Pathanamthitta, Erattupetta, Moovattupuzha and Kothamangalam have been submerged in water. An understanding has been reached to open the shutters of several small dams. The foecast of heavy showers have made it inevitable to evacuate residents from hazard zones of all districts. In places where red alert has been issued, there is a possibility of rain above 204.5 millimters. The Central Meteorological Department cautions that since very heavy rainfall will increase the possibility of damage, high level of alertness is needed.
The severity of monsoon showers of Kerala this time is caused by a depression formed over Bay of Bengal. Although it is to end on 10 August, weather forecasters give warnings of another depression forming there on coming Sunday. That is to say, Kerala may be in for another flood the same way as it did during 2018 and 2019. At the same time, the physical distance protocol imposed by Covid pandemic further complicates the rescue efforts and people's survival. Every one has to be prepared to anticipate this situation and adopt safety measures.
Government machinery has to show vigilance to move the population in all areas identified as hazard zones to safer places. The situation also calls for full-hearted co-operation of the people with local bodies in their efforts to mitigate risks. It is equally important for the government and public alike to show double vigilance to ensure that relief camps do not turn into pandemic spreaders. And that alone can guarantee our tiding over the disasters staring at us.