Kodagu: Fallen homes beckon victims back to ground zero

Kodagu: Fallen homes beckon victims back to ground zero

Volunteers shift salvaged articles from a house destroyed by landslides at Mekeri near Madikeri on Monday. DH PHOTO/Krishnakumar P S.

It was heartbreak for Philomena Lobo to see the house she grew up in stand dangerously on the brink of a landslide in Mekeri, a village outside Madikeri town.

Philomena vacated the house soon after a portion of land abutting her house got loose and slid down last week following heavy rains. She moved to her daughter’s house in Madikeri. But on Monday, Lobo was back in her house to help shift household items, mainly utensils, furniture and clothes - whatever was left of them.

Heavy rainfall has ravaged many villages in the Madikeri taluk and those who lived there have been evacuated. But the pain of having lost their home is driving people such as Philomena out of the safety of their relatives or relief camps just so that they can salvage any of their belongings from the flood-wreck.

“The water is gushing from the hill atop my house,” Philomena said, while guiding volunteers who risked their life to move items from her house. “I want to shift stuff before anything else happens,” she whimpered, pointing at how her 45–year-old house could slide down any minute.

Some distance away is Paati, a tiny hamlet hidden amid verdant hillocks. Incessant rains caused a landslide such that Paati got cut off when the only road that led to it caved in.

The only way left requires going through hip-deep sludge, but that did not bother K C Chenappa. Despite erratic rainfall on Monday, Chenappa was back to Paati from Kallur where he moved, to see what was left of his house. “The coffee estate, the farms...everything’s gone. All we have is the clothes we wore when we evacuated,” he said. His family also had two cows, one of them blind. “They’re gone, too.”

About eight families lived in Paati, their homes now untraceable following landslides and mudslides. “We don’t know where our house even was because everything has been levelled,” said Chellappa. Like him, BK Suresh came back to Paati. His calling was his dog. “He refused to leave the house when we evacuated. I came back looking for him and I got some bread. But he’s not here,” he said, despondent.

Multiple agencies continued to operate in and around Madikeri. The Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Company officials worked overtime to fix electricity poles that were uprooted, while the Public Works officials busy clearing off debris blocking arterial roads. Bus services have resumed from Kushalnagar to Madikeri.

Life was back to normal in downtown Madikeri on Monday. About 140 people are being attended to at a relief camp run by Kodava Samaj here. The camp has people who were evacuated from the flood-hit areas of Galibidu, Mukkodlu, Hattihole, Hebbettageri and others.

“We will need two-three years to rebuild our lives,” said Ravi, a local businessman from Galibidu. Like many locals here, Ravi swears that rainfall was not the only reason for the calamity. “There was an earthquake. All of us felt it.”

The government, however, has said the earth never shook here.