Pazhassi dam in danger as water flows one metre above its crest; families evacuated

The heavy rain, landslips, and floods that devastated many areas in Kozhikode and Kannur districts in the last two days have claimed at least nine lives.

Eight persons, five of them from a family, were buried alive in multiple landslips accompanied by heavy rain in the Pulloorampara area in Kozhikode district on Monday and a child drowned at Iritty in Kannur district.

Many families have been evacuated from the banks of the Valapattanam river as water flowed over the Pazhassi dam raising concerns about the possibility of dam failure. Teams of the Disaster Management Force and the Navy have been rushed to the districts for relief and rescue operations and opening of the failed shutters of the dam. Around 150 shops in Iritty town have been flooded.

Dam in danger

Minister for Water Resources P.J. Joseph told The Hindu over phone that the dam was in danger as water was flowing one metre above its crest. He has sought the help of Union Defence Minister A. K. Antony for airlifting a team of experts to handle the situation. They will take a call on blasting the spillways if the shutters could not be opened. The spillways were under repair and five gates could not be opened as the water level rose following heavy downpour and landslips. The dam has 16 spillways and official reports reaching here said that nine of the gates could not be opened on time. Following this, the government has asked for an examination of the condition of shutters of irrigation projects across the State, Principal Secretary (Water Resources) V. J. Kurian told The Hindu.

Victims

The bodies of Puthanpurayil Varkey, 78, Nellipoyil village; Palathil Gopalan, 75; Thundathil Ouseph, 65, Thiruvambadi village; his wife Elikutty, 60; their daughter-in-law Lissy, 28; and grandchildren, Amal, 3, and Joyal, 1; Jyotsana, 9, daughter of Padannamakal Binu-Sheeba couple; were recovered after a massive search operation that began on Monday afternoon and concluded on Tuesday afternoon. The search operation that got disrupted in heavy rain resumed only on Tuesday morning.

The body of Amal was recovered on Monday night itself. The children’s father, Biju, a wood worker, is the lone survivor in the family. He was away for work when his family was wiped out on Monday evening.

Akshay, 9, son of Naroth Dineshan, drowned as he fell into a water-covered pit at Kunnoth, near Vallithode, at Iritty.

Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash, and the Water Resources Minister were visiting the rain-hit areas. The Cabinet will meet in the State capital on Wednesday and Thursday to decide on assistance for the victims including farmers who has lost crops in the landslips.

The clearing operation by the police, the Fire and Rescue Services, and local people were under way. Several wards in Thiruvambady grama panchayat have been virtually left with no link to the outside world. The main thoroughfare to Thiruvambady town was washed away and only a makeshift bamboo bridge remains as of now.

The residents of the worst-hit areas in the panchayat – Pulloorampara and Anakkampoyil - have no power or drinking water supply since Monday evening.

“There is no food or water. We are 10 families holed up in one house since yesterday (Monday). We were on the roof of the house and could hardly hear each other over the roar of the water,” Rosie, a resident, said.

Moral support

Fifty-eight school children were seen returning home early Tuesday morning after being sheltered at the Bethania church in Thiruvambady town the whole night.

“Right now the residents are in need of moral support. As an immediate precautionary step, we are distributing bleaching powder and chlorine to prevent the contamination of water among households,” Thiruvambady medical officer M.K. Radhika, who led an emergency team from the primary health care centre, said.

“The rescue operations are almost over with the recovery of all the bodies. The government has to decide on the damage assessment and rehabilitation package. We may do it by tomorrow,” District Collector K.P. Mohan Kumar, who visited the area along with Additional Director General of Police Rajesh Dewan, told The Hindu in the evening. A Central disaster management team had landed at the Calicut international airport and was on its way to the disaster spot.

No loss of life or destruction of property was reported in the heavy rain that lashed Kasaragod district on Monday night. Widespread damage to crops and property has been reported in the heavy rain that has lashed Wayanad district since Monday. The rain seriously affected four villages in the district.

Keywords: Rainlandslipsfloods