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Nov 11, 2009

Death toll raise to 43 in nilgiris ...


The hill station of Nilgiris continued to reel under floods as landslips and heavy rains claimed 29 more lives, taking the tollin the last two days to 43. The number of deaths in rain-related incidents across the state since the northeast monsoon began rose to 71. With sheets of water inundating Ooty, Kothagiri and Coonoor towns, the tranquil retreat of Nilgiris presents a bleak picture of calamity.

Uprooted trees and floodwaters blocked traffic and cut off the road link between Coonoor and Ooty and landslips left a trail of house collapses and human tragedies. Several tourists are stranded in the hotels. Nine members of a family including a bus driver of the state transport corporation, S Louis, died as their house in Atchankal village near Ketti collapsed due to a landslip and was washed away on Monday night.Landslips claimed the lives of nine people in Ooty taluk, 15 people in Kotagiri taluk and five people in Coonoor taluk. Ketti and its suburbs, about 7 km away from Ooty, received record rainfall of 820mm in 24 hours while Ooty recorded 170mm.

As reports of landslips poured in, the rescue operations were on in full swing. Amid heavy rains, local villagers assisted by revenue officials, recovered at least 29 bodies from various parts of the district and shifted them to government hospitals.Torrential rains took a toll on cattle too. According to J Joseph Dickson, assistant director, Animal Husbandry, deaths were reported in Ketti and Kundha in the hill district. The national highways, coursing through Ooty-Coonoor-Mettupalayam, has been closed for traffic as landslips and uprooted trees have damaged the road near Lovedale in Ooty. The road via Kotagiri is now the only route to reach the tourist retreat, Ooty.

Many villages in and around Ooty, Coonoor and Kotagiri are also cut off from the towns due to minor landslips on the roads. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway services have been stopped as boulders and earth blocks have blocked the railway track. However, the district administration is taking steps to ensure the transport of essential commodities from the plains to the hills via the Mettupalayam-Kotagiri-Ooty road.On Tuesday afternoon, the rains relented and there was hint of sunshine. Anguished locals thronged Lovedale and Valley View to assess the damage caused by nature. A distressed farmer in Ketti, K Bhojan said, "only God can save us and Nilgiris". N Manoj Joshi, a tourist from Mumbai who is stranded in Ooty due to heavy rains, said, "It is sad to see beautiful Ooty in the throes of such a calamity".

In neighbouring Coimbatore, schools and colleges were closed for the second successive day. However, it was a sunny day but floodwaters entered hundreds of houses in and around Coimbatore. The Parambikulam Aliyar canal suffered a breach and the PWD officials plugged it on a war-footing.

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