In Muttom, life picks pace after the landslide

In Muttom, life picks pace after the landslide

The remains of Anil's home, a heap of rubble, in Muttom in Idukki district, on Friday. DH photo by R Krishnakumar

Everyone in Muttom seems to have known Anilkumar. Last week, the body of the 44-year-old man was pulled out from debris left over by a landslide that hit this little town, about 9 km from Thodupuzha in Idukki district.

As drivers, waiting bus passengers and shop-keepers give out directions to his home, you sense what this means here. While the floods have devastated many other parts of the district, the damage in Thodupuzha and neighbouring towns has been minimal.

Mathew, a rubber tapper and Anil’s neighbour, remembers hearing a huge sound on the night of August 15 amid torrential rain. “This is rare in these parts but I knew when I heard it,” he says as he walks ahead with his dog, Blackie, to the location of the landslide.

The remains of Anil’s home, a heap of rubble, indicate the impact – dented kitchen utensils, broken wood and a few clothes strewn around against the backdrop of the imposing hills. His wife and two children, aged 16 and 10, were trapped inside the home but were rescued, with injuries.

From the town, the walk up is a steep trek. The death from the past week is not clouding over, as people go about their business in their hill-slope houses. The ravaged, desolate stretch, where Anil’s home was, appears marked out in the middle of life as it goes on elsewhere, unhurried.

“There were a lot of people here when it happened,” a woman says as she dries clothes at her home. For the family, however, the story is far from over.

“He was a labourer. His wife has not been mentally well. The authorities have shifted the family to a rented house. Now, they are trying to get a house for the family, as announced by the government for the affected,” says Thankappan, an auto-rickshaw driver in the town.

In Thodupuzha, the biggest town in the district, there’s no sign of the festival season – Thiruvonam falls on Saturday. The state government has already called off the official Onam celebrations in view of the deadly landslides and floods.

“People are still trying to get back to life. Roads are still damaged in many places; access to areas including Kattappana and Cheruthoni is very limited. When there are deaths and such huge losses, there can’t be celebrations,” says Sasidharan, a retired government employee from Vannappuram.

In Thachett Nagar in Thodupuzha, bank employee A R Rajan and his wife Sindhu are still rearranging their home, hit by a flash flood on August 15.

“There’s also the scare about snakes having entered the homes,” says Rajan.

Aji Damodaran, a resident of neighbouring Manakkad, says water had risen to five feet at his home. His family chose to relocate to an ancestral home – “My aged mother didn’t want to shift to a relief camp” – but the flood-hit there as well.

“But when we see what has happened in the high range, we know we can’t complain,” he says.

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