Scientists look to pinpoint cause for landslides

People through sludge, at Mukkodlu, Madikeri. Photo/ B H Shivakumar

A team of scientists from the Hyderabad-based National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) got cracking Wednesday to try and answer the ‘why’ of the landslides that devastated the scenic Kodagu.

The NGRI Earthquake Hazard Assessment group has installed seismographic equipment to determine if there was an earthquake that added to the destruction that has been largely attributed to heavy rainfall.

According to a preliminary analysis, scientists have ruled out the possibility that landslides were caused due to an earthquake that occurred on July 9, which was 3.4 on the Richter scale about 25 kms northwest of Madikeri.

“Earthquakes are known to cause landslides, but in this case, the July 9 tremors cannot be linked to the landslides that have occurred here,” NGRI senior scientist R Vijayaraghavan told DH.

The team led by him visited the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Hebbettageri, where it has set up seismograph equipment.

Memory of the July 9 earthquake is still afresh in the minds of locals here. “I remember clearly, my shop was damaged in that quake,” said Vinu Kumbaranna, 50.

Many locals like him swear that the July 9 tremors either loosened the soil or that there was another earthquake recently that added to the damage, especially cracks on the roads across north Kodagu.

According to Vijayaraghavan, it is not necessary that the severe road damage was caused by an earthquake. “Earthquakes occur in the deep lands. They are deep-rooted and normally don’t occur on the surface,” he explained.

Vijayaraghavan, who is credited with having installed over a hundred seismic stations across India, added that no earthquake above 3 on the Richter scale was picked up by NGRI seismographs in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well.

Unimaginable destruction has taken place in Mukkodlu in the Madikeri taluk. On Wednesday, several families learnt of the extent of damage when they ventured into treacherous terrain to check on their property for the first time since the flooding.

One such family was Rohan Kariappa’s that owns 22 acres of coffee and pepper plantation. Rohan and two others trekked through six kilometres of knee-deep sludge bracing leeches, crabs and frog - only to discover that 9 acres of their property had vanished. “It’s completely covered in sand,” he said.

“It’s so bad that we aren’t even sure if we can rebuild it. We had coffee plants since ten years. How much time will it take now to get yield? Maybe 20 years,” he wondered.

While the likes of Kariappa waded through the sludge, Madikeri MLA and former minister Appachu Ranjan waited for a backhoe to clear the path. The mud, however, continued to slide and Ranjan left, hopeless.

The situation in Mukkodlu and Hattihole is so terrible that at least 10 villages in the area have remained without power for over two weeks now. Reason: The Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Company (CESC) has not been able to assess the damage, let alone fix it.

“There’s a 25-km power line from Makkanduru that comes here to Mukkodlu. But we don’t have access to go and assess the damage. We expect to get paths cleared for us and until then, there’ll be no power here,” CESC Madikeri subdivision assistant engineer Sampath AR said.

 

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Scientists look to pinpoint cause for landslides

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