Idukki landslip: symbols of a simple, reclusive life of estate workers lie strewn among the debris

Their journey was limited to their native villages in Tamil Nadu to attend some functions there

Updated - August 18, 2020 10:53 pm IST

Published - August 18, 2020 03:18 pm IST - IDUKKI

A destroyed jeep which was carried over to the rocks at Pettimudy near Munnar in Idukki district.

A destroyed jeep which was carried over to the rocks at Pettimudy near Munnar in Idukki district.

What do a coin box and a glass-framed photo found in the debris of a landslip area where four estate lanes were buried deep under the earth and boulders say?

The coin box is one item recovered in Idukki’s Pettimudy in addition to the boxes of liquefied gas, utensils, furniture, text books, damaged toys and play items used by children all strewn around. “It looked like a war-zone area,” says Sebinstine Francis, who was in the search team right from the first day of the rescue work after the recent landslip that flattened estate lanes and claimed many lives.

A jeep sitting on a huge rock on the side of the nearby river was a pointer to the powerful flow of water and debris from the hill to the downhill area, he added. About 10 jeeps, many motorbikes and cars were completely destroyed in the landslip where the human toll, including the missing, was estimated to be 70.

The vehicles were safely parked and most of the victims were asleep that made the damage big, he added. Those who escaped the tragedy said it occurred around 11 p.m. on August 7.

Though the initial search was limited to the area where the estate lanes were located, the debris of the landslip had washed away in the nearby river. Bodies were recovered from a distance of over four kilometres. People from the nearby estate lanes were shifted to safer areas and only the rescue workers are seen in the abandoned small junction now.

Hadley, a resident of Munnar, said that he found a glass-framed photo of a family intact among the debris. He said it belonged to his friend whose body was later recovered.

The coin box and the glass-framed photograph are symbols of a simple, reclusive life of the estate workers whose only they are mostly the descendants of a fourth generation estate workers with poor economic background.

The life in the estate lanes has not changed much though the plantation town of Munnar moved to a popular hill station over the years. The community living of the estate workers in lane is an accepted norm and it made the death toll very high. With the recovery of three bodies, including that of a child, the toll on the Pettimudy landslip rose to 61 on Tuesday.

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