No more bodies under landslip rubble, says District Police Chief

The heaviest monsoon season in about 20 years has forced the State government to take help from the Union government to carry out a study on Idukki district as it continued to face landslips threatening lives and property in several places.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who visited the site of the landslip that killed three people here on Monday, said Central help would be sought to do a comprehensive study of the situation in the district.

The Chief Minister was greeted at the site by the news that rescue workers had not located any more bodies though initial reports suggested that more people, including a group of tourists from Tamil Nadu, may have been caught in the landslide that buried nearly a dozen shops by the side of the Kochi-Dhanushkodi national highway. Three people were killed in the incident.

The good news was confirmed by the district superintendent of police M. Sheik Anwaruddin Saheb who said no man missing reports had been received by the police so far. Rescue operations have been temporarily suspended.

The Chief Minister, who arrived at the site here after landing on the premises of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya at Neryamangalam in a helicopter, said personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), now engaged in rescue and road clearing operations here, would be diverted to places in neighbouring districts like Ernakulam if the situation demanded.

The Chief Minister, accompanied by the Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash and Rosy Augustine, MLA, said relief for those affected by natural calamities would be speeded up.

Mr. Chandy also promised that the government would help those who had lost their shops in the landslip here on Monday.

The Chief Minister later travelled to the Adimali Taluk Hospital where a man injured in the landslip, Thoppilkkudy Baby, is admitted with serious head injuries. He also visited the family of Thoppilkkudy Joshi, who was killed in the landslide. The body of Jithin Jose, a 11-year-old boy from Palakkad, was taken to his native town. The body of Rajan, the driver from the Devikulam taluk office, was taken to his native place for last rites.

Meanwhile, rescue operators, led by personnel from the NDRF, the Army and the Navy, cleared the Kochi-Dhanushkodi national highway to partially restore vehicular traffic.

Sixty NDRF men and 75 men from the Army and the Navy, aided by the local volunteers were able to locate a motorcycle, a jeep and a car that were washed down the highway into a 30-foot-deep gorge.

Personnel from the Fire and Rescue Department used high power water jets to cut through a large layer of mud and rubble to check if any vehicles or people were trapped in it.

The rescue operators located a car in the Deviyarpuzha, about 40 feet below the road.

Around 400 policemen and officers have been at the spot of the landslip since Monday morning despite the heavy rains. The policemen kept some semblance of order at the rescue site .

Rain in the early hours of Tuesday made things more difficult and the possibility of further landslips loom large over the area.

The site of the landslip, about 30 km short of Munnar from Kochi, will take at least a month to be restored to normal traffic as rains continue to wash down huge quantities of mud and slush on to the road.

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