Mandapalle village in Kadapa district had previously never been flooded even during heavy rainfall, so many residents did not heed the official warning of a possible dam breach and failed to evacuate their homes.

House damaged in the flood that hit Madanapalle village in Andhra Pradesh’s Kadapa district
news Rains Thursday, November 25, 2021 - 15:21

At around 3.30 am on Friday, November 19, water from the ring bund of the Pincha dam in Andhra Pradesh’s Kadapa district started overflowing, with the excess water accumulating dangerously in the interlinked Annamayya dam. Annamayya, a medium irrigation project with a gross capacity of just 2.24 thousand million cubic feet (tmc), could not hold the water for long.

The dam breached around 5.30 am the same day, submerging the 10 villages, including Togurupeta, Mandapalle, Pulapathur and Gundlur, located downstream of the project. At least 33 persons perished in the raging waters. As per the latest official figures, the bodies of 12 persons are yet to be identified. In Mandapalle village alone, 12 people who had sought shelter in the nearby Shivalayam temple, located at the foothills of a hillock, were tragically washed away.

Damage due to the flood in Mandapalle village
According to Kadapa District Collector V Vijay Rama Raju, the district administration were on a vigil from 6 pm on Thursday, November 18 itself and had alerted the villagers in the flood-prone areas through Village Revenue Officers and village volunteers.

Mandapalle, a village nestled between misty hills with the Cheyyeru river flowing alongside it, received the alert around 11 pm on Thursday, according to the residents. They, however, did not realise the gravity of the situation. Mandapalle has two sub villages – Edhugu Mandapalle and Dhiguvu Mandapalle. While no human loss was reported in Dhiguvu Mandapalle, 12 from Edhugu Mandapalle who went to the Shivalayam temple, against the instructions of the authorities, were swept away.

“At 11 pm on Thursday, the village volunteer informed us that the rainfall is heavy, that there could be pressure on the dam, and asked us to remain on alert,” said Shashidhar, a resident of Edhugu Mandapalle. Nine of Shashidhar’s family members died after they were washed away in the water. Shashidhar’s father, Ramamoorthy, is a priest, and they thought that they could survive the deluge if they went to the temple. The residents have done this previously whenever there was a flood threat.

House that collapsed in Mandapalle village due to the flood

Meanwhile, as there was a threat of a breach in Pincha, officials scrambled and hurriedly began the evacuation process. “By 3 am we made calls to all the political leaders asking them to evacuate the village immediately. Besides, our Village Revenue Officer Nagamani went door-to-door around 3.30 am asking people to shift to the relief camp that was set up in a nearby school. We had arranged tractors for the evacuation,” Rajampet Tahsildar Ravi Shankar told TNM.

The residents of Dhiguvu Mandapalle paid heed to the warning but the residents of Edhugu Mandapalle made a disastrous choice. “They ignored our warning and refused to get into the vehicles as they have never witnessed such a disaster,” Ravi Shankar said. “That day it was Karthika Pournami, an auspicious day, so some people instead went to the temple on their own against our advice.”

Residents sorting their belongings after dam breach flooded Mandapalle village
Those who defied the officials and took shelter in the temple included the Deputy Sarpanch of the village, Eashwariah. It proved to be a costly mistake as his wife and mother were washed away in the deluge.

“Previously, water has never entered our village, that’s why I remained in the village while my family went to the temple,” said Ramamoorthy.

A flooded road in Mandapalle village after the flood
Ramamoorthy survived the disaster after he climbed up to the terrace of his neighbour’s house but nine of his family members were not so lucky. Those who died include five children – Manveeth (2), Chasmitha (7), Ramyashri (11), Vicky (12) and Latha (16). While four bodies have been found, the others are missing. “It has been more than four days. At this stage identifying the bodies will be very difficult,” said Vinay, Ramamoorthy’s youngest son.

“Edhugu Mandapalle has many rich farmers, who have constructed concrete houses at a height to avoid flooding. They refused to evacuate because the village has never been flooded. Nobody expected that the dam would breach and submerge the entire village,” said Ravi Shankar. According to him, by 2.30 am, around 200 residents of Dhiguvu Mandapalle had been shifted to the relief camp, while none of the residents of Edhugu Mandapalle showed any interest in evacuating.

Electronic appliances like this fridge were washed away from homes in Mandapalle village
“Even we did not know that the dam would break, but the VRO took a lot of effort to urge the residents to move to safety,” he added.

Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu who visited the flood-affected areas on Tuesday, November 23, alleged that “administrative failure” had caused the disaster.

Food being served in the relief camp set up in Mandapalle village
Meanwhile, Kadapa Collector Vijay Rama Raju in his report about the breach of the Pincha and Annamayya dams, submitted to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Wednesday, said that the district received unprecedented rainfall. He said that on the evening of November 18, Pincha received 1.17 lakh cusecs of rainwater. “Even if we had protected the ring bund, we could not have controlled the water,” the Collector said.

According to him, while Annamayya dam’s capacity was 2.17 lakh cusecs, it crossed 3.2 lakh cusecs by Friday morning.

Denying the charges of negligence, the Collector said that by 6 pm on November 18, the entire government machinery was vigilant, and Village Revenue Officers and village volunteers had informed the 1,250 families in the flood-prone areas to be on alert. He said that before Annamayya dam breached, 400 families were evacuated to safety.

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