A raging sea continued to batter the coastal areas of the city from Pozhiyoor to Sanghumukha for the second consecutive day on Sunday, damaging houses and threatening to devour large tracts of land.
The district administration opened two relief camps at Beemapally and Valiyathura to accommodate those families which lost their houses to the sea.
While 107 persons had been put up at Fisheries School, Valiyathura and 130 shifted to Upper Primary School, Beemapally after their houses were damaged by high waves that leapt over wall.
Tahsildar Madhu Gangadhar said 45 houses along the coast were damaged. A control room had been opened at the Taluk Office, and Revenue officials asked to be on alert. The Beemapally, Poonthura, Cheriyamuttam, Valiyathura and Cheriyathura areas are the worst affected.
On Sunday, a team of officials from the Minor Irrigation Department evaluated the damage to the sea walls. The repair and strengthening work is to be taken up this week.
Restive fisherfolk were maintaining a sharp look out as the water, whipped up by monsoon winds, relentlessly hammered the coast, breaching the sea wall at some places. They said the Beemapally coast was facing the worst erosion in recent times. Residents say the newly constructed groyne at Poonthura had aggravated the erosion on the leeward side. The construction of groyne was taken up as a coastal defence strategy to substitute sea walls that have had a limited effect on preventing erosion.
For fishworkers, the high seas signal a lean season when they have to risk venturing out to sea in hazardous conditions or take up other work to fend for their families. Mujib Rahman, a resident of Beemapally, said “life is miserable during the monsoon. Our families often go hungry. Some of us seek work at construction sites but even that is scarce as many projects are held up during the rains. Our children cannot go to school.”
Fishermen from all along the coast converge on the sheltered harbour at Vizhinjam to launch their boats when the sea gets rough. The heavy congestion on the Vizhinjam beach often leads to friction.
Conditions at the relief camp are dreary. There is very little running water and no toilet or bathroom. The families have to share space in an auditorium. “With the school doubling up as a relief camp, the children cannot study,” said Iqbal, a local resident. “Every year, dozens of families are forced out of the houses by the sea. Yet, for some reason, the government has failed to rehabilitate the families from the vulnerable areas. And that when the houses constructed under the Tsunami Rehabilitation Project are lying vacant,” he said.
The Tahsildar said steps for allotment of the houses had started. “We hope to complete the allotment soon,” he said.
At Poonthura, further down the coast, residents are weary from mopping up their floors every time a wave tops the sea wall between the groyne.
On Saturday, they blocked the road, demanding reconstruction of the damaged sections of the sea wall. Fisherfolk here admit that the groyne had helped absorb most of the energy of the waves.
“But for the groyne, the houses along this stretch of the coast would have been consumed by the waves,” said Justin, a resident. “But it remains to be seen how long the groyne built with small granite stones can stand the constant buffeting of the waves,” he said.