22nd September 2021

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Landslide in Idukki,

A massive landslide last week crushed a colony of 83 tea plantation workers at Munnar in Idukki, Kerala. To date, 55 bodies have been found, 12 people have been rescued and many are still missing. Let us see what happened and why the area is prone to landslides.

  • The landslide occurred at 10:45 p.m. on August 6 in Pettimudi, a village in Rajamala district under the panchayat of Munnar village in Idukki district in Kerala.
  • Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company (P) Ltd workers lived in Pettimudi. Rajamala includes Eravikulam National Park, and the landslide was triggered in an area of ​​shola forest in the national park.
  • Rocks, mud and mud rushed a distance of about 1½ km to a patch of valley in Pettimudi, crushing the one-room houses of farm workers who were in two rows, facing each other .

Vulnerable area

  • The place where the landslide was triggered, according to the Kerala Geology Department, has a slope of 40 °, and any slope greater than 20 ° is vulnerable to landslides during heavy rains.
  • The soil has a high sand content, which absorbs more water, takes a loose shape and runs the risk of slipping.
  • An analysis of the landslides in Idukki by the National Disaster Management Authority showed that heavy rains saturate the ground on the slopes.
  • Soil with higher clay content has high water-holding capacity and low drainage capacity, which generates high water pressure in the slope material.
  • Human interventions, such as heavy loads on the slopes caused by buildings in cleared terrain, without adequate protective measures up and down, have made the area particularly vulnerable.
  • Frequent landslides blocked the river channels and changed the course of the river.

The victims

  • Authorities said 83 people were living in 30 single rooms with tin roofs provided by the farm. 12 of them were rescued by residents of another colony.
  • To date, 55 bodies have been recovered in careful rescue operations. Residents said there were more missing as many had come as guests from other areas.
  • Only a handful of residents, who were absent, survived. Among the victims were 31 people from extended families living in adjacent neighborhoods and six temporary workers in Eravikulam National Park. Nineteen schoolchildren have died or are still missing.

Previous landslides

  • 2019: 59 people died in Kavalappara, Malappuram. In Puthumala, Wayanad, another landslide killed 17 people.
  • 2018: Various landslides in Idukki, 60 dead. Elsewhere, a landslide in Thamarassery, Kozhikode killed 14, and another in Kurancheri, Thrissur killed 1.
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