Incessant rains in western Tamil Nadu for the past couple of days have wreaked havoc in the areas of Gudalur and Pandalur (The Nilgiris), Senkottai (Tenkasi), Valparai (Coimbatore), Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and parts of Kanyakumari.
Two people have died after trees fell on them under the impact of winds in the Nilgiris. Heavy rains have damaged electricity poles in these areas and disrupted almost all modes of communication. Turbulent winds have uprooted trees in Valparai and levelled houses in low lying areas of the region.
Two deaths have been reported due to landslides in Gudalur and surrounding regions like Emerald. The families in these regions have been evacuated and moved to government camps.
The Nilgiris district administration has also identified 283 possible landslide areas. The tribal areas in the district were inundated with floodwaters and more than 250 families were evacuated and given accommodation in 14 relief camps. A 32-member team from National Disaster Management Authority arrived in the district to carry the relief works.
“The heavy downpour over the past few days was caused by a system formed in South China Sea, which has now moved towards UAE. That’s why we had heavy wind and rains in Nilgiris and Coimbatore. The next system would form in the Bay of Bengal, and would bring medium-level rains to coastal areas between August 9 and 11. The other parts of the state will have convectional rainfall,” said N Selvakumar, a teacher and independent weather forecaster.
Due to the rain, most of the dams in the Nilgiris, Coimbatore and Erode districts such as Pillur, Bhavanisagar, Sholayar and Amaravathi have attained their maximum levels and in some cases, are overflowing. The Mettur Dam in Salem district is expected to reach its capacity in the next few days, since the outflow from Kabini has increased.
Impact of Kerala landslide
The landslide in Idukki district of Kerala, whose death toll rose to 28 on Sunday, has raised concerns among the residents in Tuticorin as around 80 people from Kayathar village in the district were working in tea plantations in Munnar. They were employed at Kannan Devan Hills Plantations Company and were staying at the houses provided by the company. On the fateful night of August 7, around 20 houses were levelled in a landslide in the Rajamala area of Munnar. The disaster response force were able to rescue 12 members alive while more than 60 people were feared missing. Rescue operations are underway.
“Due to rain, the rescue operations are becoming difficult. Some of the deceased were our co-workers. We are unable to contact their family because the communication has been disrupted. We were unable to extend our support during this time of bereavement due to lockdown,” said Lissy Sunny, president, Pombila Orumai, an organisation formed by the women labourers of tea estates in Idukki.
NK Natarajan, state chief, CPI(ML) said that the workers were working in the plantations for generations but not cared well.
“The houses were built during the British period. The workers have complained many times in the past about the maintenance. But the estate management has changed only the roofs with asbestos sheets. The Kerala government too has not considered the workers demand of ‘safe residence’. The government should initiate criminal proceedings against the estate management,” he said in a statement.
Rahul, a resident of Kayathar and who lost his uncle and aunt in the landslide said that this was the second time they have seen such bad weather.
“Last year, the houses were inundated with the flood. But no landslides happened. Some of the workers who returned here following the lockdown were saved from this disaster. Till now none of the company representatives have contacted us,” he said.