Pettimudi, Munnar: Nine day after a deadly landslide swept away a tea estate workers' settlement here on August 7, three more bodies have been found, taking the death toll to 58.
One of them is a two-year old girl identified as Dhanushka. She was found stuck in a tree branch fallen across the river. Rescuers think she was washed away in the deluge of sludge on the fateful night.
She was found, thanks in part, to a mongrel – Kuvi – which was desperately in search of its human friend since the incident. Rescue personnel got a cue as Kuvi stood transfixed in the direction of the river. On seeing the body of the child, the mongrel wailed endlessly.
The other two are women. The bodies were in an unrecognizable state of decay preventing officials from identifying who they were. However, their DNA samples have been collected.
Again, it was two dogs – Rose and Tiger – belonging to Forest Watcher Murugan who helped find these bodies. They have been aiding the rescue efforts here since the day of the incident.
The body of Dhanushka’s father, Pradeesh Kumar, was found earlier. Search is on to find her mother, Kasthuri, and sister Priyadarshini and 12 others.
It is unclear still just how many people are trapped under the debris.
The Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company, which runs the estate where the tragedy struck, said 83 people lived in the affected 'line houses.' The Revenue Department count indicated only 78.
Recently, a child's birthday function was organized in one of the houses here and sources said a couple of people had come visiting. The company believes that they too could be trapped under the debris.
The district administration has informed that they would continue the operation until all the bodies were secured.
Only 12 people managed to escape the landslip.
Pettimudi is 21 km from Munnar and is linked to Tamil Nadu through Marayur and Udumalpet.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Fire and Rescue Service, the police, and the local people had started rescue efforts after the tragedy struck.
The desolate location of Pettimudi and the washing away of an arterial bridge delayed the rescue operations.
NDRF field commander Rekha Nambair had told Malayala Manorama earlier that spine-chilling cold and intermittent rain were impeding rescue.
The power and telephone lines too had got cut many days before the landslip in strong rain and winds.
Source of landslide traced to Kurisumala
The Forest Department has traced the source of the August 7 Pettimudi landslip to Kurisumala Chola. The location is on the fringe of the land owned by the Kanan Devan Tea Company and the Eravikulam National Park in Idukki district.
The ill-fated ‘line houses’ of the tea company are 800 metres down the spot of the land implosion. Huge boulders and water tumbled down with earth, directly on to people who were mostly sleeping in these houses.
Eravikulam Assistant Wildlife Warden Job J Neriyamparambil said the spot identified by the department was where two cholas (streams) converged. He said the personnel had found one more stream nearby. There was a similar landslip in a place called Gravel Banks, near Pettimudi.