From the verandah of her house, Ramla Moosa watched with a familiar sense of trepidation as the swollen Kadalundi river primed for yet another land invasion. “It’s threatening,” she spoke of the scene. “There is no letup in the rain. The river is red, muddy and turbulent.”

Inside the room, her two children moved their valuable possessions upstairs. Not far away from the water-logged frontyard, the red Kadalundi gushed forth in full force, inching threateningly close to the breaking point. It’s this picture that Ramla and her neighbours dreaded the most even as seasonal rain has been pounding the district for the past two weeks.

“Different year, same story,” Ramla said. Back-to-back floods in two years have left a lasting destruction already in many of the households at Kuzhippuram, of Parappur panchayat, Malappuram district. Last year and the year before, when the river reached this stage, it burst its seams, sweeping through the residential areas. “Do you think my house will survive another flood?” she asked.

Ramla was widowed a year ago, just two months after Kadalundi overflowed for the second time in a row, damaging on its way her doors and the windows, besides seriously denting the foundation of her house. She managed to repair the damaged parts, except the foundation, because her husband was around to help. This year, it will be difficult without him if the flood happens.

“It was not like this three years ago,” said Abdul Raheem, an elected member of Parappur panchayat, standing on the steps that descend into the river. “We have never seen floods for more than 10 years. It is the landslides that cause the floods,” he said, adding there was no landslip reported from areas Kadalundi river cuts through.

“This one is a rain-fed river. Unless you have three weeks of continuous heavy rain, it won’t overflow. I am sure the rain will subside soon and water will slowly recede,” he said. His words of assurance, however, provided no comfort for the nervous house owners who continued to shift the belongings to safety and prepared to vacate the houses.

A house is surrounded by floodwaters when Kadalundi burst its banks

A low-lying area, Kuzhippuram mostly sees knee-deep spring floodwaters even if Kadalundi river doesn’t overflow during monsoon. Most dwellers moved here only four or five years ago, lured by the cheap price of the land. They built their houses on the raised foundations to avert waterlogging and spring water flooding. But the last two years have completely changed the scene, with the river running over the banks and submerging the entire area, taking the situation out of their control.

Reports said that the two times the flood happened, landslides had played a huge part. Usually Kadalundi and Chaliyar, the two important rivers in the district, is seen in full spate during monsoon and the water recedes when the rain ceases. But the unprecedented landslides made the two rivers overflow and caused irreparable damage to many households on their banks.

“We never expected that this would happen. There was no flood for a long time. That is why we moved here. Now floods and landslides are yearly events,” said Unni T, a carpenter who has been living in the area for the last five years. “When the rain batters the roof, everyone sleeps in comfort. But we lose our sleep thinking over the impending flood.”

The district saw one of most destructive landslips last year when a huge hill came off in Kavalappara near Nilambur, burying alive more than 40 people. Tons of mud cascaded down the slope, bringing along with it trees and houses, and blanketing the area with a thick layer of mud and stones.

The flood relief works in the district were also on high gear after the water returned to normal level

The flood relief works in the district were also on high gear after the water returned to normal level. The affected house owners received immediate relief of Rs 10,000 from the panchayat, besides getting other essentials. “We ran rehabilitation camps last year and provided the essential commodities to the needy,” said Congress local committee member Kutty Bapu.

However, he said that it would be difficult to organise such camps because of the Covid-19 situation in the state. Maintaining safe distance in the camps will not be possible, considering the number of people who will be affected and have to be rehabilitated this time. “It will be double whammy for people. Covid-19 and flood will form a deadly combo,” he said.