As rain began to batter Kerala once against this year, the people of Cheruthoni in Idukki district turned vigilant, recalling memories from last year's flood. The water that gushed through the open shutters of Cheruthoni dam had washed away everything in its path, including several homes. Though the rains are not as strong as they were last August, landslides in and around the area have pulled people out of their houses, some of which are still being rebuilt from last yearâ€™s devastation.
60-year-old Rukmini, resident of Gandhinagar colony in Cheruthoni, has had three houses struck by landslides. "The last two times when landslides completely struck down my houses, a third house was built on a little lower portion of our land. But now it has also been affected and I am back here at the relief camp once again," says Rukmini who is at the relief camp at Government Vocational Higher Secondary School in Cheruthoni.
Like Rukmini who had been living alone in her house, her neighbour 65-year-old Podiyamma has a similar tale to share. "I also live all alone in a house which can fall apart anytime. Last year, six of my neighbours died in a huge landslide. I was lucky enough to escape as only a part of my house was struck by it and my house was spared. But since that incident, the land where my house is situated has turned very fragile and it can slide down anytime," she says.
She also complained that she did not receive any government aid from last year's landslide, which destroyed a portion of her land.
Both Rukmini and Podiyamma donâ€™t want to go back to their houses. "We live in fear of not being safe in our own homes. We don't want to go back there and die in a landslide," Rukmini says.
49-year-old Mani lived at his house near Cheruthoni town till last year, when the waters devastated his house and land. Mani had been living in a camp ever since. "There were about 60 families in the quarters last year with me, most of them moved out. But about 14 families, including mine, haven't received any financial aid for loss of our land or house," he says.
Jayan, a driver by profession, is also one of the many people who have been staying away from their own house, which was damaged in last year's flood.
"Our house in Gandhinagar colony was damaged heavily in last year's calamity. My wife was pregnant when we were moved out to the camps. No adequate facilities could be given to her then and she gave birth prematurely. Since the baby should be kept away from places prone to infection, we did not move back to our house. It is not safe and requires rebuilding. Since I was actively involved in rescue work last year, I couldn't apply for government aid on time. Now we live in a rented house here," says Jayan, while carrying his eight-month-old baby, who is yet to be named.
About 112 persons of 35 families from various parts of Cheruthoni are now staying at the relief camp which opened here on Friday evening.