Life after the deluge: A slow, dusty start in Pandanad

A truck with relief material arrives at the flood-hit Pandanad, in Chengannur, on Thursday. DH photo by R Krishnakumar

The rising dust, the slush around homes and the few remaining pools of floodwater barely indicate what could have happened in Pandanad last week.

The sun is out but the slush is still drying in the village, located about four km from Chengannur town in Alappuzha district. A few men and women, all wearing masks, wait for volunteers to join in as they prepare to clean their muddied homes. Many others have started on their own.

When the village was flooded last week, people had no idea what hit them. Waiting for help to arrive, now, is something most of them would not favour.

“It’s too early to distance ourselves from what happened. I don’t think we would ever fully come out of it because it was too sudden and the impact was too unexpected. It shook people out of their belief that these disasters can’t happen to us,” says Bejoy, who has returned home with some friends for the clean-up.

Volunteers are coordinating relief work near the Swami Vivekananda High School. On the road adjoining the school, a digger is scooping up mud off the road. “The roads could be cleared in a day or two but the houses are in a really bad shape. Many people haven’t even started returning,” says Jiju, an auto-rickshaw driver.

He and his family members have just finished a first-round sorting of valuables and documents at their home. The actual losses in the village, he says, will come out only after people return from the camps.

Pandanad and areas including Puthenkavu, Kallissery and Mannar were flooded after shutters of Kakki, Anathode and Kochupampa reservoirs were raised. The Chengannur situation also threw up a curious contrast – as thousands called out for help from the upper floors of their homes as water rose around them, many stranded in the flooded areas also refused to vacate homes and shift to the relief camps. Rescue team personnel said many people, including elderly couples, did not want to leave their homes.

“Those who had the facilities in place in their second floors could afford to say no. They’ll have their reasons but it was not a wise thing to stay in the hope that the water would come down,” says Harikrishnan, a resident of Mannar.

Vijayan, a resident of Puliyoor, agrees that one takeaway from the flooding has been a renewed sense of caution. Rescue operations were focused in Chengannur toward the final stages of flooding after MLA Saji Cheriyan made an emotional plea on television for airlifting people stranded in the region.

Residents including Vijayan feel that the CPM MLA’s words reflected the mood which prevailed in Pandanad and nearby areas through two days and nights. Many villagers appear to have reconciled with that fear.

At the Chengannur bus station, food stalls are getting back to business, as usual. Or not quite. Under five minutes, three customers ask a man who runs one of the stalls – “So how high did the water rise here?”

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Life after the deluge: A slow, dusty start in Pandanad

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