Crammed with relatives, Dileep Kumar’s house along the northern banks of Pallathuruthy Bridge looks like a relief camp.
His brothers and aged mother moved in with him when the water level rose in the Pampa, flooding their houses. The situation, however, is no different at Dileep’s house where they have to wade through knee-high water to move about.
“We thought being together would give us the emotional strength to face the situation. Our biggest concern now is to watch over the children in the family,” Dileep says.
His wife Krishnamma is more concerned about keeping the provisions safe than about cooking food for the family. “You never know when the water level may rise. So it’s about preserving the food and keeping it at a safe height,” she says.
Heavy rain over the past fortnight has submerged hundreds of acres of paddy fields and motorable roads in the area.
People rely on country boats as the only mode of transportation. A safe passage through the area is now all about knowing the terrain, for it is almost impossible to gauge whether you are stepping into a submerged paddy field or into the depths of the river.
The cobweb of loose hanging electric wires poses another threat to people undertaking boat journeys.
Many houses dotting the submerged paddy fields are vacant with the occupants choosing to move to safer locations.
Thankappan, a retired Kerala State Road Transport Corporation employee, recently renovated his house by availing a loan of Rs.5 lakh only to see it getting submerged. While he sent his family to the safety of a relative’s house, he stayed back to look after what he considers his “only asset”.
Farmers of Devaswomkari paddy fields in Pallathuruthy had delayed cultivation due to saline water intrusion. Even as they were ready for it, heavy downpour hit the area submerging their fields leaving farmers like Santhosh unemployed.
Santhosh now helps people navigate through the submerged paddy fields in a country boat.
Inside his house, the bed is placed over many bricks while plastic chairs and tables placed on the floor serve as stepping stones. “These chairs and tables help me reach the television to switch it on and off,” Santosh says, as if it were the most normal thing to do.
Salim Kumar, an electrician, has not gone to work for more than a week as he does not have the courage to leave his wife, her aged mother and his children in a house surrounded by water. “Even before the floods, there was no proper road to take our aged parents to a hospital during an emergency. Now I do not want to be in a situation where there is an emergency and I am not around to help my family,” he says.
Karunakaran, another resident whose house has been submerged, says their present plight was caused not just because of the monsoon. Water from four rivers — Achenkovil, Pampa, Manimala, and Meenachal – eventually reach them, he says, adding, “So, the water level rises even if there is no rain.”
At the house of Prakashan, a farmer, a small country boat is placed in the submerged courtyard while a bike has been kept locked on an elevated platform alongside. He has laid many layers of bricks inside the house to increase the height of the floor.
“This has been the worst flood since 1993. It’s like a minor tsunami. We have been left in the company of snakes and reptiles and the people’s representatives have not bothered to pay a visit,” he says, making no effort to hide his anger.