Mundakayam (Kottayam): The River Manimala was quiet and calm when private bus driver K P Jebi took his usual bath in it on Sunday morning. Hours later, Manimalayar changed its avatar into a ferocious one and showed no mercy in washing away the man's 25 years' savings, including his house.
A video clip of the house being washed away went viral within and outside Kerala, reflecting the fury Nature has unleashed on Kerala. The viral clip, however, did not mention the providential escape of about 25 people, who were inside the house minutes before the swollen river gulped it.
Jebi's wife Pushpa and daughter Revathi were among those helpless people who watched the river claiming the house. "We have lost everything, and we should start from square one," Pusha said, adding that she couldn't save anything, except the clothes she was wearing, from the house before rushing to safety.
The woman, however, expressed relief that the river had spared their life. The shock of watching her house, where she had been living with family for the past quarter of a century, disappearing in the muddy waters was still visible in her eyes.
Jebi was away at work and stranded near Ponkunnam in the floodwaters along with his bus when his house on Kalleppalam Road near Mundakayam town was washed away around 12.15 pm.
The water level in Manimalayar started rising rapidly around 10 am, and by 12 noon, the currents became extremely strong. Neighbours, who noticed fissures forming and widening around the house, alerted the residents and others inside, who rushed outside. Within minutes, the double-storey house was gone. Jebi's neighbour Ameer Ismail recorded the video on his mobile phone, which soon went viral.
"About 25 people were in the house just before the incident. All of us rushed out, and I locked the house. In another 30 minutes, the house was washed away. I never thought such an incident would occur, since the house was a strong one. Our neighbours came to our house thinking they would be safe there. Only God knows how we will go ahead with our lives," Pushpa said.
The house had a storey at the road level and a basement floor. Jebi, who returned late in the night, did not go where his house had stood till a few hours ago.
Jebi and Pushpa have two daughters. The eldest has been married, while the younger one has been pursuing a postgraduate degree. "My children grew up in this house. I don't know what to tell them," Jebi lamented.
The family lost cash and valuable documents along with the house. Jebi said he had about Rs 2.5 lakh — a loan from Kudumbashree and money raised by mortgaging his daughter's gold — in cash in the house.
The family is now staying with Jebi's brother.
A few minutes after Jebi's house was washed away, his neighbour Kannan, too, lost his residence to the swollen Manimalayar. As many as 17 houses were damaged in the area.