People will be evacuated from Mullaperiyar dam area on Thursday as the dam is expected to overflow before the day ends.
The storage level of the dam touched 135 ft on Wednesday and was gradually climbing. Going by the inflow into the reservoir, it is anticipated that the dam may overflow late on Thursday afternoon or by evening. The evacuation plans will be finalised at a high-level meeting of the revenue and disaster management experts to be held on Thursday at 6 a.m., sources said.
The evacuation will be carried out in a phased manner and those residing at Vallakadavu area would be moved to safety first. An earlier assessment carried out by disaster management experts had identified Vallakadavu as the most vulnerable area in case of a dam break as water from the reservoir is expected to reach the area within minutes.
The district administration has set up eight shelters at high elevation areas that were identified earlier. The escape routes to these camps were cleared. Hindrances were removed and the owners of the holdings through which the routes were marked were asked to allow unhindered passage. The faded markings indicating the escape routes were repainted using fluorescent paint. Powerful search lights were established in the area. Funds have been released for procuring food grains and provisions for the camp members, said Ajith V. Patil, Idukki District Collector.
Three units of the National Disaster Response Force have been retained in Idukki. While two units have been stationed at Kattappana, one has been positioned at Peerumedu. Sub-collectors are personally coordinating the activities. Jagratha Samithies in the local areas, which are expected to warn and guide the local people in case of any emergency, were activated. Preparations for meeting the eventuality started a fortnight ago as rain intensified in the area, Mr. Patil said.
Though natural calamities are a regular feature affecting the communication network in the district, it lacks any parallel communication network. The mobile phone communication networks either snapped or got jammed during the landslip that took place the other day affecting the coordination and rescue operations. The administration had to depend on the wireless network of the police to communicate and coordinate the disaster management activities.
Now, the administration is in the process of lining up HAM radio operators and activating their network to serve as a standby communication channel. One HAM radio operator has been located at Painav, the seat of the district administration and two others at Peerumedu and Adimaly.
Even while the district administration has put in place an evacuation plan for the local residents, many in the Vallakadavu area are reluctant to move to relief camps, said Aji Varghese, a resident.
Facilities available at the Kumili tribal school are grossly inadequate. The school can accommodate a maximum of two families. The camp lacks sufficient number of toilets. People are reluctant to move to the camps leaving behind their houses and cattle, said Mr. Varghese who teaches at the tribal school.