Standing inside the relief camp at Kottamudi, 25 kilometres from Madikeri in Kodagu district of Karnataka, Rizwan flails his hands around in the air, in an attempt to explain the force of the landslide that swept away the houses, trees and electric poles in his village, Eradene Mannangiri, on Friday.
Eradene Mannangiri was one of the worst affected villages in the district following heavy rains in the last week.
As the residents were forced to flee their village, Rizwan recounts their journey to the relative comfort of relief camps, which was pocked with rumours, false hopes of help, growing trembles of landslides and invisible path.
â€śIt might sound hard to believe, but, when the mud came crashing down, a few of us cowered in terror, pressing our palms to our ears," describes the 27-year-old, who works at a mobile store in Eradene Mannangiri in Kodagu.
Rizwan and his family of eight, which includes a 42-day-old niece Izma, left their house with around 40 other residents of the village on Friday after heavy rains engendered landslides in the hills around them.
As the fear-gripped group made their way to the relief camp, they heard rumours of two deaths in a neighbouring locality. â€śIt turned out to be false as the two supposedly dead people, Venkat and his father, joined our group later,â€ť he says, adding, â€śThere was more such false news spreading on our way. A rumour about an earthquake caused panic among us."
The group walked through Devarakadu, a locally popular forest area. "There was no real path. We had to forge a path along the way and we kept going. We walked at least 10 kilometres to reach the main road, which would otherwise be a 10-minute walk if roads were there," he says.
All through their journey, Rizwan recounts, the group hoped helicopters would airlift and save them, but it never happened. "In fact, what we thought was the whirring of an approaching helicopter was actually the landslide,â€ť he says.
Survivors at the relief camp also recall witnessing a huge amount of muddy water, sweeping away trees and house, just 300 metres away from them. "We were safe. But we could not find our way to the main road and had to circle back through a coffee estate belonging to a local resident," says Rizwan.
The group made a pit-stop at the coffee estate of Palangappa. But in less than 10 minutes, they picked up their bags and resumed the trek. â€śWe had to keep moving as we could hear the rumbling of the landslide closing in on us,â€ť he adds.
The members of the group trudged through steep roads, all the while looking out for each other along the way. And finally, nine hours after leaving the village, they managed to reach Madenadu, a nearby town.
Fortunately, volunteer groups drove the group to a relief camp in Chermane, and later, to the relief camp in Kottamudi, where they have now taken refuge.
Rizwan and his daughter
When TNM visited the relief camp in Kottamudi, volunteers were busy segregating the first batch of relief materials that arrived at the camp. â€śWe brought in around 35 people from the relief camp in Chermane due to lack of space there. We have all the relief materials necessary for basic amenities, barring women's clothing and ration items,â€ť says Sadiq, who is coordinating relief materials at the camp.
Access routes to Kottamudi from Murnad, a nearby town, have been cut off due to waterlogging and landslides in the region but a path winding through pepper estates via Hodavada village is still open.
Listening to the stories recounted by the first batch of survivors, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) headed to the area on Sunday.
As for Rizwan and his family, they are happy to be alive. "We are alive and made it safely here", he says, even as he tries to console his one-year-old daughter Riza.