Stranded, at risk in Charmadi

Deccan Chronicle.  | Gururaj A Paniyadi

Nation, Current Affairs

2,000 people spend entire night in forest following landslides which leave B’luru-M’luru highway blocked.

Workers use an earth mover to clear the piles of mud from the road at Charmadi Ghat.

Mangaluru: The unusually heavy rains following the onset of the South-West Monsoon have wreaked havoc in the Western Ghats and areas in the vicinity with about 2,000 people stranded at Charmadi Ghat after a landslide at two places on the National Highway 234 in the Ghat section around Monday midnight.

The authorities have ordered closure of the road for the next two days to clear the debris and undertake repair work. After the closure of Shiradi Ghat for concretisation, most vehicles, especially those coming to the famous Dharmasthala Temple, take the Charmadi Ghat route. In the absence of Shiradi Ghat, it is the shortest route between Mangaluru and Bengaluru. 

The Ghat section which has a narrow road, has been recording minor landslides since 2-3 days due to rains. With the monsoon intensifying, Charmadi witnessed landslides on Monday afternoon and in the evening which was cleared in the evening by local volunteer Hasanabba and team. 

About ten trees were uprooted due to the rain and wind on Monday. With heavy rain continuing in the night,  there was a major landslide between the second and third curve in Dakshina Kannada district and at the eleventh curve in Chikkamagaluru district around 1.30 am. 

The landslide between 2nd and 3rd curve left about 200 metres of the road covered in 30 feet of mud. 

About 300 vehicles including buses, cars and two-wheelers were stranded between these two places. 

The vehicles could neither move down or up as there were landslides on both sides. People had to spend the entire night in the forest fearing further landslides.  

The local residents along with the authorities tried to help them but could not do much at night due to heavy rain. Volunteers however provided biscuits, fruits and water to the people. They also helped an aged lady who needed medicines. 

On Wednesday morning, the clearing operation was led by Belthangady Inspector Sandesh P.G. Vehicles were finally able to move around 3 pm. Chikkamgalur SP Annamalai and Puttur AC Krishnamurthy too visited the spot. 

Belthangady MLA Harish Poonja who had visited Charmadi on Monday, rushed to the help of those stranded on Tuesday and supervised the work undertaken by officials. 

"People in the vehicles were hungry. Many people prefer not to have food while travelling in the ghat section due to the tendency to vomit. Arrangments were made to provide food packets to them. We had taken food and water to the people. I also spoke to the hotel below the ghat section to prepare lunch to ensure that the stranded people who travel down get food immediately. I have asked the authorities to close the road for two days to ensure that it is cleared of debris," MLA Harish Poonja who was seen barefoot supervising the work in the ghat section told Deccan Chronicle. "Wearing footwear would make it difficult to walk in the landslide slush. So I preferred to walk barefoot," he added.

A National Highway, Mangaluru Division official told Deccan Chronicle that the main reason for the landslide was heavy rain accompanied by wind. 

"Trees were uprooted due to gusts of wind. This resulted in landslide in many places," he said.

"Over 210 four-wheelers and over 50 two-wheelers were stranded in the ghats. Arrangements were made to provide bananas, water and biscuits to them," DK Superintendent of Police Ravikanthegowda B.R. said. 

"The clearing work still needs time due to which the road will be closed for the next two days. People should take the alternate route via Kalasa or via Madikeri," he said.