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Pray for rain to stop, killer dam manager tells residents

The management of Patel Coffee Estates Limited in Solai, where one of the dams broke and flooded areas downstream, killing at least 48 people, has denied claims that the dams on their property are illegal.

Vinod Jayakumar, a senior manager at the farm, in an interview aired live on Citizen TV, defended his employer, Patel Mansukul, but asked residents of villages in the area to pray for the rain to stop as it is the cause of their woes.

“It is not illegal,” he said of the seven dams that the Water Resources Management Authority says are illegal as they have neither been inspected nor authorized by the government agency.

“It has been there for the last almost 60 years and the dam which has caused us a problem has been there for almost 20 years. Just because it happened you can’t say it is illegal,” said Mr Jayakumar.

SUPPLYING FOOD

He said the farm has, since the disaster happened, been supplying food and other things to the 450 families displaced; 4,000 loaves of bread, 1,400 litres of milk, 500 blankets, chocolate and beans.

“We’ll make sure they are fed properly,” he said.

He added that the breakage of the dam’s retaining wall was a natural calamity caused by bad weather and heavy rainfall in Dundori forest, where the rivers that flow into the dam spring from.

The manager said that when there is heavy rainfall upstream, boulders and tree stumps are swept into the dam and cause the wall to crack and this is why the disaster took place.

“It’s a natural disaster, a natural calamity. It has happened. Now we have to look forward on how we can come out of this crisis,” he said.

Mr Jayakumar expressed confidence that the relationship between the farm and the villagers around it will remain firm despite the disaster wrought upon them by the weakness in the wall of the dam.

‘PRAYING TO GOD’

“I’m sure the people will have more confidence on us. My dear brothers and sisters, you don’t have to feel bad. We are always with you. Like you know Mr Patel and the family more than I know them, we will be with you and please be calm and quiet and be praying to God that there should not be more rain,” said Mr Jayakumar.

“For those who have lost their belongings, I cannot say anything right now but we’ll action things. We’ll action things and probably you’ll know how. I cannot say a timeframe but we’ll start at the earliest. Because we have been in this place for 60-70 years and we have always been with the community. The community has high respect and we also have a high regard for the community.”

He said 1,000 – 1,500 people are employed every day and sang the praises of his employer, saying he always pays them on time and has given the villagers so many other indirect benefits that it would take a long time to list them.