The camp, opened in the auditorium of the Karoor St Peter’s Orthodox Church in Pathanamthitta district, houses about 100 people.

Kerala floods At Aranmula relief camp survivors recount tearful stories of rescue
news Kerala relief Sunday, August 19, 2018 - 12:44

Ninety-one-year-old Padmavathi Amma was sleeping on a mat on the floor while 1.5-year-old Neelu was being breastfed by her mother.

Neelu was cheerful and smiled at us, but Padmavathi Amma did not seem to notice the presence of strangers. Next to her is her 65-year-old daughter Omana.

Recalling the most dreadful experience in their lives, Omana breaks down. “We were 25 people in total, all the neighbours put together. There was a two-storeyed house in our neighbourhood, we all stayed on its terrace. A kutta vanchi (country boat) rescued four or five of us, then we were 20 people waiting for the rescue team,” she says.

When they saw helicopters flying overhead, they tried to get their attention by screaming and lighting candles, but they had to wait for more than a day.

“The next day the Navy team came, but if we had to stay there for half-an-hour more we all would have died,” Omana says.

Her neighbour Lakshmi Kutty Amma who is sitting near Omana nods her head. “True, if the rescue was delayed a bit, we would all be dead by now,” she says.

Omana and Lakshmi Kutty Amma

The group is now at a relief camp that has been opened in the auditorium of the Karoor St Peter’s Orthodox Church in Pathanamthitta district. In the compound of the same church, the camp houses people from various parts of Aranmula.

Five-months pregnant Renju Lakshmi is also accommodated at the camp. “We became more and more afraid as each moment passed by,” she recalls. She, her husband Manu and their son were stranded in their house from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday evening.

“Finally it was the locals who rescued us. I would offer flowers at their feet, they rescued us by breaking a window in our house. I don’t how to thank him and his friends,” she says, pointing to a young man near her whose name is also Manu.

As many as 280 people were housed at the camp, but some of them left as the water began to recede while some have been admitted in hospitals. Now there are more than a 100 people in the camp. As this reporter reached the camp on Saturday night, a van with food and other materials sent by the Thiruvananthapuram corporation had just arrived.

“It was more frightening for us as we had to take care of our two kids who are 1.5 and 7 years old. By Wednesday afternoon the house was fully flooded, we were three families in the neighbourhood. Twenty of us waited on the terrace of a nearby building for an entire day. Finally local people came to rescue us. We were rescued in a kutta vanchi, four in each boat,” says Narayanan as his wife Sreelatha looks on. Neelu, their 1.5-year-old child, was all smiles.

21-year-old Vaisakhi and her mother Geetha are in tears, for they have lost all that they had earned in their lifetime. Vaisakhi’s wedding was fixed for Sunday, but had to be cancelled due to the floods.

“We have nothing left, everything is gone, the ornaments, the money,” Vaisakhi says. Her father is no more and Geetha works as a maid.

Vaisakhi and her mother Geetha

Ambili, her mother Sugandhi Amma, sister Aswathy and brother Rajan had undergone a similar ordeal, waiting for the rescue team for more than a day or two, seeing death in front of the eyes, losing all that they had earned and now facing an uncertain future. 

The news that the shutters of Kakki dam were opened has them even more worried.

“We are trying to provide as many facilities as we can. The diocese members have been very supportive, donating materials and working as volunteers at the camp,” diocese priest Lesly P Cherian says.

Also read: Kerala floods: Navy chopper lands on narrow rooftop in daring rescue of 26 people