It started as a small landslide in Wayanad's Puthumala village in Meppadi panchayat on Wednesday evening. But Shaji, a resident of the area, realised it was going to get worse. Along with other residents, Shaji immediately set out to evacuate people to safer locations in Meppadi in the district.
By 8 am the next morning (Thursday), the team of residents quickly turned the Puthumala Government Lower Primary School into a relief camp. "We had to forcefully evacuate many residents as they were refusing to leave their homes," Shaji tells TNM.
The landslide, however, only got worse. "On Thursday, around 4 pm, we heard the second landslide, this time, a thunderous sound roared through the air," recalls Shaji, who soon realised the severity of the landslide when the back of his house was jammed with mud. ‚ÄúI immediately evacuated my daughter and mother to a church in the area,‚ÄĚ he adds.
With Wayanad having received the highest rainfall among other districts on Thursday, a mass of earth came crashing and tumbling down, washing away acres of land in Meppadi. The continuing heavy rains and landslides also washed away houses, buildings, cars and trees.
According to Shaji, people who refused to leave their houses and some workers at Harrisons Malayalam Company are currently missing. Many of them took refuge in a mosque, which is believed to be under the rubble.
Puthumala is an agricultural area, and a little further, in the lower parts, are plantation areas, where numerous migrant workers are reported missing. The quarters for labourers, which have six rooms each, are reported to be affected.
Meanwhile, the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) battalion is in the process of rescuing those trapped under the rubble and mud. Although there is no confirmation on the number of people missing, the District Disaster Management Centre told TNM that two people have been confirmed dead so far. ‚ÄúPazhassi colony was one of the affected areas. Unni and Vineetha were in their houses when a huge mass of earth fell on the building, claiming their lives,‚ÄĚ an official at the District Emergency Operating Centre said.
Currently, around 16,000 people have been sheltered in 126 relief camps in Wayanad district. Meanwhile, Red warning has been sounded in the district for Friday. According to the Indian Meterological Department (IMD), Wayanad is set to receive 'extremely heavy rainfall', that is, more than 204.4 mm rainfall on Friday.
NDRF personnel have rescued 54 people from Puthumala in Meppadi. Nine people, who were rescued on Thursday night, are undergoing treatment at the DM Wayanad Institute of Medical Sciences (WIMS), Meppadi. One more team is on the way to Wayanad. The area has been cut off as there is no connectivity.