As the confirmed death toll in the landslide in Kerala’s Idukki district climbed up to 24 with the recovery of five more bodies on Saturday, the gloom deepened as the loud wails of a survivor Manjula rent the air when her son’s body was dug out of the debris.
On Saturday, the body of her son Dinesh was among the five retrieved from under the debris. As the men, who were toiling to dig out the victims, were taking Dinesh’s body to a waiting vehicle, Manjula wept inconsolably.
The landslide had occurred about 30 km from the popular tourist destination of Munnar on Thursday night.
Area residents said at least 43 persons were still missing. The search operation was continuing despite inclement weather.
“I do not know why I should live now — I have lost both my sons. While one of them has been taken out, the other still lies under the debris. They were studying in a college and had come home due to the coronavirus pandemic. And now, they are gone; why should I live?” wailed Manjula. She now has only her husband to share her grief with.
Deepan, who survived the tragedy and is awaiting surgery at a hospital in Idukki district, broke down as he said that he had lost his parents and wife who was over seven months pregnant.
“A function was slated to be held on Friday regarding her pregnancy. So, we all went to sleep early on Thursday night. I woke up in the middle of the night to find myself lying stuck in a mound of mud as our home collapsed. I was stuck there for several hours before I was pulled out. I have lost everything,” Deepan lamented.
But there were tales of providential escapes too amid the tales of sorrow.
Murugesan, who runs a small canteen at the spot where four rows of houses of a tea estate once stood, considers himself lucky to have escaped death.
“When I woke up on hearing a loud sound… the room that I was staying in along with my son and wife had collapsed. There was no way to escape. But then, we decided to break free through the roof tiles and managed to come out,” recalled Murugesan who is convalescing in a hospital in Idukki district.
Revenue Minister E Chandrasekheran and Electricity Minister MM Mani, who hails from the district, visited the spot where rescue operations are on.
“Rescue work will continue till the last missing person is found,” said Chandrasekaran.
While the Kerala government has announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the bereaved families, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced Rs 2 lakh for each family.