This tiny hill station in Kerala has opened its doors to passengers stranded by the rains

According to police, nearly 1,000 travelers, who were traveling to Thekkady, Munnar, Mundakayam and Kottayam, were stranded in Kuttikkanam on October 16 due to landslides.

On Saturday October 16, student Maria James and her friends returned to Ranni after spending the puja vacation with another friend in Vandiperiyar. They were on a public bus and, due to the lack of network connectivity, they had no idea what to expect. The rains in Kerala in recent days had caused a major landslide en route and they got stuck in a traffic jam near the Kuttikkanam hill station in the Idukki district.

“We sat on the bus from about 11 am until dusk hoping the roads would clear,” says master’s student, who studies at St Thomas College, Ranni. “There was a rumor that there was a landslide ahead and people were working to clear the roads. So we stayed inside the bus. There was no possibility of turning around because a A landslide had knocked down an electric pole on the road behind, blocking the passage of the bus.

“We were stuck in Kuttikkanam,” says Maria. As night approached, she and the others on the bus started to worry. They didn’t know anyone there. Where would they find food? Should they spend the night on the bus?

Read: What caused Kerala’s extreme rains in October? Experts explain

Kuttikkanam, is a small hill station located at the meeting point of the roads connecting three major cities – Kumily, Kottayam and Kattappana. The people who live there remain largely among themselves.

But on Saturday, as Kottayam and Idukki districts faced heavy rains and landslides, the hill station turned into a haven for hundreds of travelers who were driving through the region and driving through the region. are found stranded, including Maria and her friends. “The Peermade Police Sub-Inspector took us to a girls’ home in Kuttikkanam. From that point on we really had nothing to worry about, the people at the hill station had organized rooms and food for us, ”says Maria.

According to local police, nearly 800-1,000 travelers, including daily commuters, out-of-town vacationers and pilgrims from Sabarimala, who were on their way to Thekkady, Munnar, Mundakayam and Kottayam found themselves stranded in Kuttikkanam. Saturday. Landslides had blocked the roads and the number of vehicles gradually started to increase, causing huge traffic jams. The only road that wasn’t blocked was a pothole road that led to Kattappana.

“Traffic started to heat up after 10 am on Saturday when police blocked the road to Mundakayam due to landslides. The travelers stayed in their vehicles, thinking the barricade would open. But the police could not let the cars pass for fear of more landslides. It was only after 5 p.m. that the police let some of them pass. Leaving Kuttikanam was also not an option for many of these travelers as the nearby town was flooded due to heavy rains, ”says Binoj Devasia, a local restaurant. owner.

“The few available lodges filled up immediately, and most travelers found themselves stranded with nowhere to go or stay,” he adds.

Soon word spread that there were nearly 1,000 homeless people stranded in the hill station. Initially, restaurant owners in the area let weary travelers into their restaurants so they could eat and shelter from the rain. But, this was not a permanent solution as it was clear that the roads would not open until the next day.

Kuttikkanam doesn’t have a lot of lodges, but what there is in abundance are residential colleges and schools, and the hostels were empty as most of the students had returned home for Mahanavami’s vacation. Residents, police, district collector Sheeba George, and school and college administrative staff gathered, and the hapless travelers were slowly transferred to hostels stretching across Kuttikkanam for the night.

Police said the people were transferred to nearby institutions including the Model Boarding School, Christian College of Engineering and Technology Mar Baselios, Marian College, St Joseph’s LP School and the SMS Club and Library between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. .

“We have informed the local population that our hostels are open and empty. So, then, residents inform people stranded on the road that hostels are available for them to stay overnight. Our hostels accommodated at least 220 people that night. Said Father Soby Kannalil, a faculty member at Marian College.

The initial few travelers who came to the hostel received a hot meal at the hostel’s mess. “We hadn’t prepared much because a majority of our students had gone home for the holidays. For the rest, the restaurants in town remained open and provided food. For breakfast, we made sure to prepare extra food, so that everyone could eat in the mess itself, ”says Father Kannalil.

Travelers were also stranded in Pullupara – a village near Kuttikkanam – which was badly affected by the rains. “The people stranded in Pullupara were helpless because their vehicles were stuck between two landslides. The people of Pullupara coordinated with us and also brought them to the college for shelter, ”added Father Kannalil.

Maria and her friends spent a comfortable night in the girls’ hostel. “The next morning the SI called to monitor us and informed us of the situation.” Police said the road was cleared on Sunday morning and the flood situation in Mundakayam improved.

On October 17, the travelers, who had found food, shelter and hospitality in the small hill station of Kuttikkanam for the night, returned to their vehicles and continued their journey.

(All images courtesy of Sunil Varghese)

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