As water recedes, Bethri villagers’ misery unfolds

P M Jameela tries to salvage belongings from the debris of her house which was ruined in rain at Bethri village in Virajpet taluk of Kodagu district. (DH Photo/B H Shivakumar)

Six days after river Cauvery’s 10-foot-high waters receded from Bethri, the once-bustling village located about 15 km from Virajpet seemed to have been turned inside out with mud clinging to houses and plants.

Villagers who returned from relief camps last Friday have been washing the mud off everything, from the roofs to every single thing they can salvage from the damp and cold rooms of the house that had provided them warmth for over three decades.

Two days before the Cauvery river rose nearly 30 feet above its normal level, the residents had moved to relief centres. Those who were stuck were rescued. The last of the residents to leave the village saw waist-deep waters.

M U Anwar Pasha, 58, said everything he heard about the house seemed exaggerated when he was in a relief camp. “But what I saw when I came back last Friday was incredulous. Even the roof was under water. It took me two days to throw out things. From sofa, bed and other materials to TV, refrigerator — mud had filled up everywhere,” he said.

Balakrishna, a 67-year-old priest of Bhadrakali temple in the village said he did not know about floods and remained in the temple as he didn’t get the alert. “I was completely cut off from everyone. The area was surrounded by water, which receded after four days. Thankfully, I had enough rice and other materials to survive,” he said.

Jameela P M, 47, showed some of the materials she had recovered from her collapsed house. There were many things visible under the debris of the roof columns and she had stories about almost all of them.

“We always had waters rising up to our ankles and not more. We had left home for two or three days during such floods. But we never imagined that it would come to this,” she said, showing her grand daughter’s school trophies which were laid down to dry after a wash to remove the mud.

Hameed M was busy poking into a large pile of debris from his house. His six-year-old son insisted on joining him in the search for the valuables lost under the tiles of the collapsed roof. He said he had to search through the debris to know what he still has.

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