It is the first time in her life that 28-year-old Deepa is seeing destruction of such a massive scale. Deepa and around 110 others live in a small settlement in Nagaroothu in Pollachi range of Anamalai Tiger Reserve. Last Thursday, flash floods washed away more than 25 houses in the region. Deepa and the others fled for their lives, grabbing whatever they could.
The water, in its full force, washed away not just the houses in Nagaroothu, it also took with it a 2-year-old girl named Sundari and left six other persons injured.
Sundari's body was found only on Tuesday, after over 100 hours of search operations by officials from the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. The body was found buried under the mud in a Feeder canal, about one kilometre away from Nagaroothu.
The Tamil Nadu Forest Department swung into action as soon as news of flash floods spread. However, the lack of electricity in the area obstructed them from carrying out any rescue work in the dark. Hence, it was only on Friday that they could start looking for Sundari.
Valparai received over 500 millimetres of rainfall in a span of three days last week, and of this it received 260 millimetres of rainfall in a single day. The sudden torrential rainfall not only increased the dam levels in the catchment areas of Western Ghats but also caused widespread damage in the region in the form of landslides and water logging.
The roar of water
Deepa remembers that night vividly. “It was nothing unusual. I have seen heavy rains before and so have my parents. So, we were not really worried,” Deepa recollects.
However, soon things began to go out of control.
“It was around 10-11 pm on Thursday night, we had all settled in for the night. We heard a roar getting closer,” she says. It was only after people starting running helter-skelter, calling for their neighbours that they realised something had gone terribly wrong. “People were shouting about water entering houses. So, we all just ran blindly to save ourselves,” she adds.
Nagaroothu settlement lies close to the Contour canal of the Parambikulam- Aliyar project, which takes water from the Uppar dam in the Anamalai range to Thirumurthy dam via Sarkarpathy tunnel. The houses in Nagaroothu settlement was built using steel rods and sheets a few years ago. Heavy rains in the Valparai belt and Western ghats had increased the water flow into the canal.
“There is a hill above where we lived. There are canals above and below us. The rain water this time brought boulders and trees from the hills and blocked the canal above us. Water flowed over to the settlements and washed our houses away,” Deepa says.
The six people who were injured, were admitted to hospitals in Pollachi and in Coimbatore. "Five of them have been discharged and one is still in Government hospital, Coimbatore,” Deepa says.
The people rescued from Nagaroothu have been accommodated at the TNEB colony in Sarkarpathy. “We are being provided with all basic necessities. I have resumed going to work from here. But others are still waiting it out to get back to their lives,” Deepa says.