Three go long haul

One of the families affected by Kerela floods

Tuesday, a single visit itinerary today. The team travelled north, about three hours drive there and back, to visit an area devastated by floods in August last year. Sandwiched in between the long drives was a walk round a village near Ezhikad which was under 18 feet of water during the flooding. Chandra Babu (Idinjar) was their host for the day, he arrived at 9.30 this morning in a much larger car than usual. The spacious, comfortable seats made the journey quite bearable, unlike the driving!

For a long part of the journey they travelled on a very good road; much wider than most and therefore quite capable of creating havoc on a large scale. There were double lines down the centre for many miles but they didn’t make any difference. The Ministry of Highways could save a lot of money by keeping the lid on the white paint! The road even had rumble strips, yes you guessed it – no effect. All they mean is a bit of a thrill when you go over them at speed. Still, yet again the team made it there and back in one piece.

CDSA charity paid for a table, chair and stool for 175 families affected by the floods. Every house in the village of 310 homes was completey under water and everything was lost. Chandra, acting on behaldf of CDSA,  identified the families who had school children. The furniture provided an immediate resource for them to continue studying at home. For many that would have been the only furniture they would have for some time.  The team visited a number of the families in the village, some had refurnished their homes and others still only had basic furniture and kitchen. In one house, the family dried out the fridge and got it working; they had to get the sewing machine (source of income) repaired; and had since bought a new TV. Their house needed a new roof as the flood washed the old one away.

The families had very little opportunity to save their possesions because of the circumstances. Though most of Kerela State was affected by floods this area was one of the worst. An upstream dam was in danger of collapsing under the force of the increased water levels. The authorities decided to open ‘the gates’ to let water out otherwise the prospect of the dam collapsing would have caused widespread damage which could have happened any time. The village lay in the path of the water released from the dam. The villagers were warned at 5am to evacuate and by 11am people were waist deep in water. Local fishermen used their boats to rescue people and take them to the nearby emergency centre – there was no time to save their possessions. It was two weeks before the waters subsided and a further week to clear up the foul smelling mud. All this time the families stayed in the centre. During the 3rd week  they went  home every day to clear up, returning in the evening for food and shelter.  The water supply was contaminated so the authorities provided large communal tanks for water supplies. Only recently has the authorities declared well water drinkable.

Edmund and Chris heard the story of one family who lived in a makeshift tarpaulin and tin roofed home that was completely washed away. The family includes father Kunjumon, mother Ammini and two children Ajin and Bijin (see picture - Bijin was at school). Like everyone else they heard the order to evacuate at 5am and left when the water reached their waists. They had to carry their children to a boat in order to be taken to the centre. They only had the clothes they were wearing. Everything they owned was either lost or damaged beyond use. The family built a house similar the original during the 3rd week but it was still very flimsy. The family are now getting help from individuals and local churches to build a small  house. Other houses in the village are rebuilt using Government funds if they meet set criteria including low income level and at least 80% damage. There does not appear to be any help for home contents. Edmund gave the family some money towards the house building.

A very sad story but also one that illustrates the community spirit and the siginificant effort the villagers have given to get the place back to normal.

The team got back in the car for the return journey, inured to the perils awaiting them. They are now turning their attention to the last day’s programme and packing for the return to the UK on Thursday. Hopefully one more entry on the webiste before they leave.