Kerala, Aug 07, 2020: Kerala, Aug07, 2020: At least 15 people were killed and dozens feared trapped in debris after a landslide triggered by heavy rains flattened a row of dwelling units of tea estate workers on Friday at Rajamalai in Idukki district of Kerala. The incident is said to have occurred in the wee hours when a huge mound of earth fell on the "row houses" and two children and five women were among the deceased, most of whom were plantation workers from neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
Expressing grief at the loss of lives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the kin of those who have lost their lives and Rs 50,000 each to those injured in the landslide. "Ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh each from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to a landslide in Rajamalai, Idukki. Rs. 50,000 each would be given to those injured due to the landslide," tweeted PM Modi.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakhs each to the next of kin of those who have lost their lives. "The state government will bear the expense of treatment of those injured due to the landslide," news agency ANI quoted him.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan lauded the dedication of the rescue teams saying that the NDRF, Police, Fire Force, Forest, Revenue departments and local people are working hard to save lives. He also said, "I am deeply grieved at the loss of lives due to landslide at Pettimudi in Rajamala, Idukki. My heartfelt condolence to the kin of the deceased. Prayers for recovery of the injured and safety of those missing."
"Condolences to the bereaved families of those who have lost their lives in Rajamalai, Idukki(Kerala) due to landslide. Have spoken to DG NDRF, their team has reached the spot to provide all possible assistance to the administration with the rescue work. May injured recover soon," tweeted Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Twelve people have been rescued and efforts were underway amid continuing rains to locate the others missing in the first major rain-related mishap since the onset of South-West monsoon in July that brought back memories of the havoc caused by floods in the previous two years in the state, according to news agency PTI.
The state government said teams of National Disaster Response Force personnel have been deployed for the rescue operations and also sought an Indian Air Force helicopter, added PTI.
Cooking utensils buried in mud, asbestos and tin sheets were strewn around were all there to be seen at the area, which was the habitation of around 80 odd workers at the picturesque area near a tea plantation, about 30 km from the tourist town of Munnar. Big boulders are also scattered around the site.
Idukki District Collector H Dinesh said that the bodies of the victims had been retrieved and 12 have been rescued with injuries and shifted to hospital. "Most of the people are plantation workers and from neighbouring Tamil Nadu", he said.
The tragedy came to light after a forest watchman informed authorities about the landslide. The communication lines have been down in the area for the past three days. The injured have been rushed to Tata General Hospital. Police and Fire force personnel and local people first took up the rescue operations amid the rains while the NDRF teams were deployed soon.
The state health department has dispatched 15 ambulances and a special medical team to provide medical assistance to the victims of the landslide.
The office of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said it has contacted the Indian Air Force seeking its helicopter for the rescue mission. "The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been deployed for the rescue operations in Idukki. The team was already stationed at the district. Another NDRF team is also being moved to Idukki," Vijayan said in a Facebook post.
Meanwhile, the India Meteorological Department has sounded a red alert for Idukki on Friday, indicating extremely heavy rains of over 20 cms. Besides in Idduki, the IMD also forecast extreme heavy rains in Wayanad and Kottayam districts in the next two days, raising fears of more landslides in the Western Ghats region. The continuing torrential rains also caused flooding in rivers originating from the Western Ghats, a report from Kochi said.
Authorities in Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts have sounded alerts with excess water being released from dams built across the rivers in these districts. The rains in hilly areas have caused a sudden rise in the water level in rivers Periyar and Muvattupuzha flowing through Ernakulam district, which was among the worst hit during the 2018 deluge that claimed over 400 lives and left lakhs of people homeless in the state.