Rescued people pleading that others be rescued first, fishermen asking for food and water for those stranded – Kallissery junction in Chengannur paints a grim picture.
For the past three days, Chengannur had been cut off and rescue operations could not be held since the weather was not conducive.
On Friday, Chengannur MLA Saji Cherian was heard breaking down on a live TV debate, stating that at least 50,000 people would die in Chengannur if helicopters are not deployed for rescue operations. The town was so badly flooded that it could not be accessed by road. Strong wind hindered the rescue operations via helicopters by the army. Since water was gushing into small boats, they were also not able to reach places which were completely cut off.
Only a team of fishermen from Omana Puzha in Alappuzha were able to conduct rescue operations and managed to rescue as many people as they could.
"We have rescued nearly 300 people from Edathua to Madavana in the three days. But today, we had a setback as the engines of our two boats are damaged. Now we are not able to carry out the operations anymore. But if the government provides us boats, we are willing to resume the rescue work at any time,” Babu Solomon, one of the fishermen, tells TNM.
The fishermen were able to rescue the people, though the health of some of them was deteriorating. Those who fell sick after days of waiting on the top of flooded houses have been shifted to hospitals.
"We didn't see any human casualties but we saw dead bodies of animals floating in the water. The most saddening information we got today is that three people died in a home in Pandanad and dead bodies have not been recovered yet," says Binu Anthony, another fisherman.
On Saturday, ten bodies were recovered from Chengannur. Five of them were from Pandanad. Most of the dead bodies were in a decomposed state and hence difficult to identify. The army helicopters on Saturday dropped food to the stranded people.
On Sunday morning, in a huge relief for the residents of Chengannur, rescue teams were able to access the taluk and begin rescue operations. A team of National Disaster Response Force and a team of Fire and Rescue team from Odisha managed to reach the location.
"We are a team of sixteen, we are now moving to Pandanad," says Raveendran Naik, a member of the team.
As the water receded and the ground turned into mud, it had become more difficult for small country boats to be brought in, which the locals were using to carry out rescue operations.
"It was us, the locals, who mostly carried out the rescue operations here as other rescue operations were not that effective, given the floods and the weather," says Jayadev, a local resident. "It is a huge relief now that the other rescue teams have also come," Joy Parayil, another resident, says.
The people rescued from the area are brought to Kallissery Junction, from where they are shifted to various relief camps.
In Pravinkoodu, two kilometres from Thiruvanvandoor, the situation is not different. Though vehicular traffic has partially resumed with Kerala Road Transport Corporation operating services, the floods have been devastating.
There was a respite in rains and a group of rescuers and local people are struggling hard to save lives and give food and water.
Rescued people arrived in large numbers in big lorries and other large vehicles, with the locals giving them a helping hand to come out of the vehicles.
From there, they were sent to relief camps and those who had fallen sick or had injuries were sent to hospitals. Ambulances could be seen rushing from one place to other and vehicles would stop to supply food packets, water bottles and clothes and people would come in large numbers to collect them.
As the water recedes, some people can be seen trying to wash off the mud from the shops.
A relief camp has been set up inside a church auditorium nearby, where nearly 200 people have been accommodated. "We have rescued nearly 2000 people from various parts of Pathanamthitta. Since August 16 our focus is on Thiruvanvandoor. We are supplying food as well," PS Thoor, the head of NCC battalion in Pathanamthitta, says.
A team from the Army Vehicle and Engine Task Force, Pune, is also engaged in rescue operations.
However, Pandanad and Thriuvanvandoor are still in deep distress.