Recalling nightmares from relief camp

The family dries out clothes and other things outside their house after flood water receded at Purathuru in Kerala on Tuesday. DH Photo by Janardhan B K

Precariously perched atop their marooned houses, hundreds of families in Mangalam panchayat of Kerala’s Malappuram district were rescued from the rising waters of the Bharathapuzha river in the nick of time.

But that was six days ago, before an unprecedented community activism strived collectively to put them back on foot. Well, almost.

On Tuesday, as the flood waters receded, the houses surfaced with cracks and broken walls in Pullooni, Purathur, Kuttanur and other areas. It was finally time for the victims to bid farewell to the relief camps. Anxiety writ large over their faces, the long-suffering men, women and children collected their belongings and the kits supplied by the camp volunteers before that painful walk home.

Trapped inside a small house on the banks of the river in Pullooni in Mangalam, Kalyani could never get over the Independence Day nightmare that unfolded well before daybreak.

“There were eight of us inside, including children. Water was rising on the road. Hurriedly, we shifted our valuables to the attic. But by 4 am, the floodwaters had dangerously entered our house, endangering all our lives,” she recalled to DH.

The gas cylinder, refrigerator and all other utilities were now under water. Panic-stricken, the children were in tears. It was then, the boats reached them. “The young volunteers saved us. Regardless of party affiliations and faith, they brought us to this relief camp.”

For Yashoda Vallathol, the ordeal was akin to be hopelessly trapped in an island with nowhere to escape. “I never thought I would escape alive from that place. However much we thank those who saved us, it won’t be enough,” said the Pullooni resident.

It was double trouble for the natives, as the confluence of the Tirur-Ponnani river and Bharathapuzha had overflowed into the banks replete with houses big and small. Tuesday morning, Purathur-resident Bhaskaran was busy picking up the leftovers of the devastation. “My house compound collapsed, all equipment inside my shop went bust. I don’t know how to recover my losses worth over Rs 3 lakh,” lamented the veteran.

At the Government Boy’s High School near Tirur, the relief camp was preparing for curtains. Determined to keep the victims safe on their return, Dr Jayakrishnan, Joint Secretary, Indian Medical Association Health Scheme had a to-do list, conveyed to each one at the camp: “Open all doors and windows, switch off electricity, check the gas connection, look for rodents, clean and disinfect. Super chlorinate the wells.”

Before they walked out of the camp, their home for six days, every inmate was handed over a dress kit, drinking water bottles, essential medicines, food items for three months and an emotional farewell song, rendered with much gusto by a volunteer.

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Recalling nightmares from relief camp

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