Fortunes lost in flash floods, forever

Fortunes lost in flash floods, forever

A view of the houses that were severely damaged in flash floods at Kannappanakundu,Kozhikode district in Kerala, on Wednesday. DH PHOTO BY JANARDHAN B K

An imposing two-storied house torn apart in a flash, a four-bedroom abode reduced to rubble, a broken bridge and dozens of dwellers driven to absolute despair.

This picture of mind-numbing devastation greets anyone who cares to step into Kannappankundu, a small village on the foothills of the Western Ghats, perched on the banks of the Thudara stream near Thamarassery in Kozhikode district.

For Kasim Pathumakutty, the midnight escape from his house was nothing short of a miracle. He was fast asleep on the ground floor when torrential rains unleashed a wave of boulders and broken trees that blocked the nearby bridge. Flooded and furiously fast, the stream changed course, ripping apart the foundations of his house.

The gushing water broke through the windows and doors. Still asleep, Kasim floated on a cot. His wife and three children awoke and screamed from the first floor, as the fire brigade and volunteers struggled to gain access.

“The entire house was marooned. I was in neck-deep water. I was sure I would be washed away by the water current, unimaginably fast,” he recounted to Deccan Herald on Wednesday.

But as death by drowning appeared dangerously close, he found a rope and threw it at the fire brigade. Eventually, Kasim was pulled to safety with great effort, barely minutes after his family was rescued from the top floor. “There is nothing valuable in the house now. My land documents, cash, Aadhaar and ration cards, everything is gone.”

Watching this unfold in absolute horror was K K Mohammed, who held onto a bridge-side tree for dear life for three gruelling hours. “Just before midnight, I had come out of my house to see the extent of damage. But when I saw my friend fall into the stream, I rushed toward a workshop shed for safety. That shed vanished in a minute. The tree was my only choice,” he recalled.

From that vantage point, he could see the flood waters completely flatten another house. It belonged to Ayeshabi Uppunnikkal, who fortunately was away with the family.

“We could salvage nothing from the house. Costly electronic goods, our property documents, everything was gone in a flash. The government has assured us compensation of about Rs 10 lakh. But we are not sure,” said Ayeshabi, staring at an uncertain future.

Ten metres away, her sister Zubeida’s house stood partially damaged. Weakened by the torrential downpour, the house was too dangerous to step in.

Nowhere to go, Zubeida paced up and down, a fortnight after the tragedy.

“I just don’t know where to go. Yes, the relief-workers gave us survival kits at the camp which has now closed down. But I have no idea what to do after that,” said the mother of two, her eyes struggling in vain to hide that look of pain and despair.