No home and hearth left, flood victims look for hope

No home and hearth left, flood victims look for hope

The Poovaiah family shows the part of the hill that collapsed and destroyed their house in Chappe, Hebbettageri, Madikeri on Thursday. Photo/ B H Shivakumar

More than a week after a rolling hill washed away her mother-in-law, Netravati and Ganapati Minanda returned to Hebbettageri, only to find that there was no trace of their recently built house along with 23 others.

Situated about 8 km away from Madikeri, the small village housed about 170 houses and 600 residents who were shifted to safety shelters last Wednesday. Netravati’s family refused to move despite pressure from local leaders.

At about 7.30 am last Thursday, Netravati ran out of the house to check a loud rumble in the hills behind and saw a boulder dashing the house. She saved her husband in the nick of time.

“My mother-in-law had come out after my cry. I saw the wall of our house dashing her to the ground,” she said, adding that her son was lucky since he was out on an errand.

At Chappe colony in the village, the Poovayyas’ house that sheltered the family for 42 years had left in its place a deep gorge of more than 1,500 feet, staring at an imposing hill that rose above 2,000 feet.

“I was born here and my three children were born here. We came out of the house holding nothing except the mobile phone. I can just visualise the entire house,” said Netravati, standing 5 feet away from the gorge.

About 20 personnel from the National Disaster Response Force along with the volunteers, were digging through the silt for Ummavva’s body. The loose soil had nothing concrete to reveal till afternoon, after nearly four hours of operation.

Ramesh P C, a resident, said they had finally got drinking water to the place after fighting for it nearly 10 years. “There is nothing left here to prove that we used to live here. How should we begin,” he asked.

Gram Panchayat leader K K Aiyappa said totally 24 houses were completely washed away and another 80 were totally damaged by the landslide, which has made the entire area unsafe for rehabilitation.

“The government has to identify a new patch of land for each of these families and help them rebuild their house and livelihoods,” he said.

Most of the residents who streamed into the narrow road to see their houses had a look of awe on their faces and were yet to come to terms with their loss. Netravati spoke to
DH as if in trance. Similar was the reaction of members of Poovaiah family.

Pasychiatrist Dr Roopesh Gopal, a retired Army Major who is counselling flood victims at rehabilitation centres along with a 25-member mobile unit team, said the shock was natural.

“It takes some time for the reality to sink in. But the government needs to come out concrete plans to reassure them that there is hope,” he said.