65-year-old Hamid Kutty and his wife Pathumma were in the kitchen, busy preparing a meal for their relatives, in Idukki, on Thursday morning. The day marked the first death anniversary of their daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, who had lost their lives in the 2018 floods. Pathumma had just entered the kitchen from the backyard, where the meals were being cooked, when a loud cry made her run out again.
When TNM met Pathumma on Friday, she was yet to recover from the shock of what she had seen: her husband was lying in the backyard, covered in mud, up to his neck.
Buried and immovable in the heap of mud for an hour, Hamid, a native of Cheruthoni in Idukki, thought he will soon meet his end, just like his daughter and family. Hamid narrowly escaped death without any severe injuries.
Lying in his bed at the male ward in Idukki District Hospital, he recounts his escape to TNM.
"I was busy cooking in the backyard. Suddenly, I heard some sound and the next thing I remember is that I am being carried away by a heap of mud. I was in a state of shock but when I came to my senses, I realised that I was stuck in neck-deep mud. The landslide could have washed away my house, but then it stopped after hitting the work area or the extension of the kitchen,â€ť Hamid recalls.
Pathumma, who is visibly still in shock, is relieved that Hamid had a narrow escape. She is astonished by the timing of the landslide. "The same day last year, we lost our daughter, her husband, their two children and her mother-in-law in a similar landslide. It washed them away along with their house in Adimali (Idukki). We are yet to overcome that grief when another one struck on the same day. It was just ill fate!" she says.
Hamid was trapped in the mud for about an hour. The neighbours tried to help him out but in vain. They had to wait for the fire and rescue officials to reach the spot. The team then dug him out of the huge landmass.
"After a while, I had difficulty breathing. I was conscious when the fire and rescue officials came. I recollect how they used a big dagger-like tool to remove the mud around me. But soon, I lost consciousness and I donâ€™t remember how they pulled me out," Hamid says.
Though he escaped with minor injuries, Hamid is currently under observation in the district hospital.
In retrospect, Hamid is surprised by how it all happened. "It is true that our house is located on a slope. But this had never happened before and we did not receive much rainfall this time, before the landslide. Last year, this time, we saw a torrential downpour," says Hamid.