Clear skies have returned over the towns in Northern Kerala. With floodwaters receding, locals, police, students have begun cleaning drive and started clearing away what is left in the houses that were affected by the flood. Around 44,000 people in Calicut district were have been staying in over 241 relief camps over the last five days. Around 13,000 homes were affected by the floods in Kerala, which are by far the worst the state has seen in decades. Around 20,000 have returned to their homes with the hope of starting at the very beginning.
Youths in various localities in Calicut district are on the forefront of the restoration and rehabilitiation process with the guidelines from the health department and police officials. "We are cleaning out 15 areas centering around Ramanattukara, Kodampuzha, Mokanadu, Tumbapadam and Chulliparambu in Calicut with the help of the students, NSS, NCC cadets and college students." Said Ravindran, a lecturer at the Government Polytechnic College, who has been coordinating the cleaning drive in Calcut on Sunday.
Health departments in each district across the state have given guidelines to the volunteers, especially about the precautions which need to be maintained. Cleaning is led by the special health team with proper cleaning gears, protective gloves, and medications to prevent rat-bite fever. Instructions were given to those entering muddy waters to visit the nearest health centre and not to enter desolated homes alone.
In Malappuram district, the collector clearly instructed people that they should only return home to their homes only when it was completely dry and hygienic. Only after the geology department and the engineering department have examined the homes, will people be allowed to enter their homes. With at least 12 landslides reported in the region, Nilambur, a municipality and a taluk in the Malappuram district which is also one of the worst-hit town in the district, has around 3,000 people in the relief camps and at least 1,500 houses which are completely and partially destroyed.
Clean drinking water: The biggest challenge
Most places severely affected by the flood in Northern Kerala are households who depend on groundwater for drinking and cooking purposes. Wells are highly contaminated and instructions have been given to the people to chlorinate the water every week in the coming months. People are warned not to drink or use the contaminated water. A few who had shifted back to their homes on Saturday used the contaminated water around them to clean their houses. Ensuring clean drinking water to these households in the coming days is a challenge, which the municipalities and NGOs have taken up, as clean water remains a scarce resource in these parts.
Wells in Malappuram district had collapsed due to landslides. Draining out the contaminated water from these wells required big motor pumps which are not readily available in the district. The demand for bleaching powder also increased but was not readily available, as the plantation in Ernakulum was destroyed in the flood. People are worried about water borne-diseases. Most volunteers and people do not know the scientific method of cleaning out wells, and the people who do are unable reach everywhere on time.
Some relief camps being evacuated, not all
As people started moving out of camps into their homes, many shelters are evacuated and cleaned out in Calicut and Malappuram. Around 55 camps were shut down in Calicut on Sunday. But for some people, going back is not an option. Although the 89 families in Kalluthankadave slum colony in Calicut are asked to go back, with only two toilets for the entire colony, unsteady walls and no proper roof, they are still stranded with currently no home to return to.
The floods destroyed more than a 1,000 homes in the Malappuram district. The collectors and governing bodies are still planning for a concrete rehabilitation plan, while the state government is providing relief funds for those affected. The panchayat in Adivaram is planning to relocate the families of around 13 homes, which collapsed, to rented accomodation.
For the people of Akampadam, Thiruvambadi, a remote place between the districts of Calicut and Malappuram, they not only lost their homes but also their lands due to landslides. The remote area has only one bus service and route which is destroyed by the flood. There are three relief camps still functioning strong, with one relief camp to function for the next six months. Same is the case in Eranjimangadu camp in Malappuram which will function for the coming year, having people who completely lost their homes.
In Nilambur, sensitive areas like the Chulliyode elakkal hills are monitored and have been evacuated in case of landslides.
Missing documents worse than ruined furniture, say people
As water started receding and people returned to their homes, they were devastated to find their belongings destroyed — but more than furniture, people grimached about important documents and missing papers which the floods destroyed. The government announcement of providing school kits with replaced books and easy replacement of documents is a minor relief for the people. "What helped us the most were those who rushed to assist the affected," said Manoj Kumar, the municipal councillor managing resources in Ramanattukara relief camp. "It was during the past week that we truly remembered that we are all humans. Let us continue to be so," he said.
There is a fear among the people that there will be a shortage of volunteers in the coming days. As North Kerala starts getting back to their normal lives, they are sending the excess resources to southern parts of Kerala where districts have been ravaged by the floods and people are still mostly in relief camps.
Updated Date: Aug 21, 2018 14:26 PM