15 dead in landslide in Idukki’s Rajamala, 57 missing

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In a major tragedy, 15 people were killed in a landslide that occurred in the wee hours of Thursday in Pettimudi, Rajamalai near Munnar in Kerala’s Idukki district. The deceased include a 12-year old boy and a 13-year-old girl besides eight men and five women.

It took over eight hours for the authorities to learn of the tragedy as the region did not have power for the past four days and all the cell phones had gone dead.

Fifty-seven people are believed to be either under the slush or washed away. The region has been witnessing very heavy rainfall for the past two days, according to Asianet News

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The deceased were identified as Gandhiraj (48), Sivakami (35), Vishal (12), Ramalakshmi (40), Murukan (46), Mayil Swami (48), Kannan (40), Annadurai (44) and Rajeswari (43), Kousalya (25), Thapasiyamal (42), Sindhu (13), Nitheesh (25), Paneerselvam (50) and Ganeshan (40).

The landslide happened at around 1.30 am Friday on the estates of the Kannan Devan Hills Company in the Pettimudi range, located in the Munnar gram panchayat limits, where around 400 workers live. Most of them were reported to hail from Tamil Nadu.

The area was not known for landslides. Pettimudi, according to local people, is not a landslide-prone area. The region was unaffected in the consecutive floods of 2018 and 2019.

However, this year, there was an unexpected and major landslide at hill near Idamalakkudi. The slush fell on four layams (quarters where the workers were living) that were by the road.

“In total, there were 82 people who lived in four layams, with around 20 people in each layam,” Idukki district Panchayat President Kochu Thresia Paul told the media.

According to forest officials, 31 houses in four layams have been buried in the landslide.

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Early in the evening, rescue operations had to be called off due to inclement weather. “The rescue operations will be very difficult. All along the way, there have been minor landslides and only after clearing those, can the NRDF team reach here,” the forest officer said.

The Health Department has sent a mobile medical team along with 15 ambulances. “More medical teams will be sent if needed. It has also been directed that nearby hospitals should be urgently equipped,” Health Minister KK Shailaja said.

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