Pathar (Nilambur): The once beautiful Pathar village in Kerala's Malappuram district is a heap of boulders now. But the bigger story is not about the landslides that left Pathar a barren piece of land with heaps of mud, boulders and tree trunks or the death toll. Everyone here is talking about only one thing, that is the miraculous escape the villagers had on August 8.
Each villager here has a tale of providential escape s/he had on that evening. Even as tragic tales of death emerged from the neighbouring Muthappankunnu at Kavalappara village just 4 km away, people at Pathar heaved a collective sigh of relief when Team Onmanorama met them at a relief camp nearby. A landslide had left scores of people dead at Muthappankunnu on August 8.
Shop owner's escape
Prasad, a shop owner at Pathar, told Onmanorama how he caught hold of a coconut tree trunk and then swam to safety.
He thinks this is his second birth. Prasad is yet to come out of the shock he had on that evening, but he narrates the story with a smile of resilience. Prasad's shop is in a four-room building along the road that connects Pathar to the outer world. He was lining up goods at the shop for the Eid-al-Adha celebrations when the tragedy struck. Huge tree trunks, uprooted by the landslides above the hills, were still stuck in his shop.
“It happened around 5:30 in the evening. I was at the shop when I saw my scooter parked in the front being washed away. I then jumped into the road and tried to catch hold of it, but I couldn't. By the time the water level on the road rose drastically, and I got back into the shop to save myself,” Prasad said.
He soon realised that it was not a good move. The water that came gushing moved the furniture inside the shop and an almirah pushed him to a wall. He managed to push it away and caught hold of an iron hook on the ceiling which was used to hang banana bunches.
There were four others in the shop when all these happened. “I thought I was dead. Then all of us climbed a grill in front of the shop and managed to reach the terrace. The entire area surrounding the shop was under water by then. We didn't know where all the water came from so fast,” he said.
“Then I saw a coconut tree trunk stuck in the water like a bridge. I jumped into the water and caught hold of it. After walking on it for a few metres, I swam to safety on the other side,” he said. He doesn't remember how the others escaped. However, he is sure that all of them are safe.
He is now trying to find an earthmover to remove the debris and tree trunks stuck in his shop.
Prasad, like a few others, had stayed back that day even as people from above the hills had moved to safer places by themselves following a landslide in the morning.
As per a preliminary estimate, 16 houses at Pathar have been fully damaged and 30 partially. A building with 3-4 shops has been destroyed while five other shops have been partially damaged. An anganwadi and a masjid have also been destroyed in Pathar.