Vishnu Vijayan, a soldier with the Bengal Sappers regiment, posted at Siliguri in West Bengal had come home for a few days on leave. It was his sister Jishna's engagement ceremony this week. But, on Thursday night, when a massive landslide devastated the Kavalappara village in Malappuram district, Vishnu and his family too were trapped, along with almost 60 others.
Vishnu, his father Vijayan, his mother, sister Jishna and two other relatives were either inside the house or in the vicinity as the landslide happened. The search for their bodies continued for a fourth day, and it was only on Monday that rescuers found remnants of the house. Six members of the family are feared to be dead, but Vishnu's younger brother Jishnu had escaped the landslide.
Jishnu escaped death only because he and a few other youngsters had gone to help Rajesh Dominique, a neighbour near whose house a mudslide had happened a few hours ago.
"After helping clear the path in front of my house, Jishnu and the other youngsters decided to go back. It was when they were going back that the massive landslide happened. Jishnu has been searching for his family desperately," Rajesh told TNM.
Rajesh, who has been guiding NDRF and Fire and Rescue Service teams at Kavalappara as he knows the location of most houses that collapsed, added that they had zeroed in on the debris of Vishnu's house.
"On Monday, we could identify the house. Many feet of mud has been removed and I think we can cut through the slabs tomorrow. We should hopefully be able to remove the dead bodies tomorrow (Tuesday)," he said.
Till Monday night, nineteen bodies were retrieved from the site. However, the six bodies retrieved on Monday remain unidentifiable. Fire and Rescue Service officer Hari told TNM that they were unsure if Vishnu was inside the house or in the vicinity. "It has been difficult to reach the bodies as they are buried several feet below. Vishnu had booked his return ticket on August 25. We hope to get through the debris of his house on Tuesday," he said.