There is hardly any part of this district which is not mourning the death of passengers who lost their lives in the Air India Express plane crash in Mangalore on May 22 as the bereaved families struck by the tragedy are yet to come to grips with the loss of their dear ones, most of them working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The people's shock here following the crash of the plane carrying the passengers from Dubai including nearly 50 from this district alone was on Sunday replaced by a sense of being reconciled to the reality of having lost so many of its people. The urgency of bringing home the remaining bodies of the deceased, many of them beyond recognition, and their funeral overshadowed any overt sense of grief that had already engulfed the entire district.
Every part of the district has been hit by the tragedy. As per the information available here, 48 of the 50 Keralites who had died in the plane crash belonged to this district. The bereaved families are scattered across the district from the coastal Kasaragod town to the eastern hill areas. Uppala, Arikkadi, Cheemeni, Udma, Koliyadukkam, Kanhangad, Bandadka, Kundamkuzhi, Poyinachi, Parappa, Thalankara and Neeleswaram are still to come out of the grief. Five of a family including children had died in the plane mishap.
By noon on Sunday, 24 bodies had been brought to their homes and buried. The families of those deceased who remained to be identified are waiting for the bodies. Official sources here said that the difficulty of identifying the charred bodies was causing some delay.
The process of identifying the bodies by DNA test was under way in Mangalore. By Sunday, the bereaved families would be receiving more bodies.
"It is still unbelievable that my brother is no more", said Muthedi Ayathar, a priest of the local Sree Kurumba Temple, and elder brother of N. Soman from Kasava Kadappuram at Nellikunnu here who was among the passengers who had died in the crash. The body of his brother had been brought on Saturday night. After the funeral of the 44-year old Soman hailing from a poor family in the area, Mr Ayathar said that his younger brother had left behind his wife and a child.
Several families in the district had similar stories to tell. The tragedy hit many including some who were visiting their native places for attending wedding celebration of their dear ones and, in one case, a youth on his way to attend his father's funeral.
"It will take some time before Kasaragod comes out of this shock", said Kasaragod municipal chairman A. Abdul Rahman, a close associate of Ibrahim Khaleel of Thalankara, a prominent businessman and community leader, who was among the deceased passengers in the flight.
The grief had touched all parts of the district including the municipal area, he said adding that the area under the Kasaragod police station limits alone had lost at least 10 passengers. He also said that the people of Kasaragod had been among those who delighted when the Bajpe airport in Mangalore was developed. While it took five to six hours for the Gulf-bound passengers from here to reach Karippur airport in Kozhikode, they could reach the Bajpe airport in hardly two hours. The airport allowed many of those working in Dubai and Sharjah to visit here for even weekends to attend marriages of relatives, he said.
The number of the deceased hailing from the district is likely to go up, according to the Control Room officials here. Those who have been identified as passengers from here have been so identified from the addresses in their passports taken from Passport Offices in Kozhikode and in Kochi. There may still be passengers who had applied for their passports from Mangalore Passport office, sources said.
There is no accurate figures about the number of people from here working in the Gulf countries. According to N.A. Nellikunnu, Indian National League leader, who was visiting the house of the bereaved family of Soman, there is hardly any house in the district which does not have at least one member working in the Gulf. Most of them were from economically backward families like that of Soman, he said.
Among the leaders who visited the bereaved families in the district as also the hospitals in Mangalore include Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy, Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed and Revenue
Minister K.P. Rajendran.