Killur (Belthangady): Their dreams were shattered on that fateful afternoon on August 9 and now, the residents of several villages in Mittabagilu Panchayat of Belthangady in Dakshina Kannada district have no clue about what the future holds for them as they wait for the authorities to come up with a plan to rehabilitate them.
Memories of the horrifying incident still haunt the villagers who recall that the landslide happened after heavy rainfall in Nandikad, Parla, Makki, Ilyara Kanda and Dai Pitl villages in Mittabagilu. Life was peaceful till a week ago when they tilled 4-5 acres of fertile land using abundantly available water amid the lush green forests in the foothills of the Western Ghats. Heavy rain was nothing new to them as they had experienced it for generations.
But the rains on August 9 irrevocably changed their lives and they are now confined to temporary rehabilitation centres fearing to return to the houses where they have lived for centuries. "Our crops, houses and water sources are filled with mud, the road leading to our homes has been completely damaged, electric poles have collapsed. Everything has been destroyed. Now we are staying in others’ houses" said Ratna of Parla with tear filled eyes. She with about 50 people from her village and nearby villages are now living in a house near Kajur.
It all happened on Friday afternoon after heavy rainfall when the villagers heard a huge sound and within minutes, massive trees, boulders and mud, carried by huge waves of water entered their houses and land. The small rivulet near their house turned into a massive river.
"We did not know whom to contact as there was no power and all our mobiles were dead. We were unable to come down to the village headquarters due to the flood waters and the fact that it was getting dark. We stayed at the same place for the whole night with our shocked children in our laps amid the terrifying sound of falling rocks, trees and rushing water. The next morning, the police team arrived to rescue us," she recollects.
The story of Leelavathi, a resident of Makki village is even worse. Her husband is a paralytic and could not move. "I and my husband along with our three children decided to go out of the house but my husband could not walk. Fearing a threat to our lives, he asked us to save ourselves declaring he would remain in the house. But we did not want to lose him and took him out in a wheelchair as far as we could. Shivappanna and his family, who reside in our village, took us to their house and gave us shelter. My husband is now in our daughter's house at Puttur," said Leelavathi whose family owns about four acres of land.
"Our fields and crops are sunk in sand and mud. We will not be in a position to clean up the village. We fear more such incidents may happen in future. There is a possibility of a part of the hill collapsing on us creating more damage. So we are fearful of returning to our village. We want the government to take over our land and provide us good compensation, a site and house near the village headquarters," said Keshava of Ilyara Kanda village.
The villagers still go to their houses as they have left their cattle there. Water sources have been completely destroyed and to even feed cattle, they are forced to collect rain water in vessels. The villagers said local MLA Harish Poonja has assured steps to provide them alternate land.