Floodwaters in Kerala recede to leave behind crocodiles and poisonous snakes

Thiruvananthapuram: People returning to their homes in Kerala from relief camps have found them infested with snakes, other reptiles and insects.

At Chalakudy in Kerala’s Thrissur district, a man who returned on Monday night to check the condition of his house found a crocodile waiting outside his home. Taken aback, he quickly caught the crocodile with the help of his neighbours and tied it with ropes.

A wildlife official told The Telegraph, “I have asked my officers to move it to a safe location away from the villages.” He added, “People need to be worried about snakes as large numbers are being spotted in flood-affected areas.”

Several districts in Kerala were affected in the worst flooding that the state has seen in nearly a century. The disaster has killed hundreds, and left over a million people homeless and caused unprecedented destruction to private and public property.

Snakes have invaded abandoned homes

Many houses from where floodwaters have receded have been infested with venomous cobras and Russell’s vipers slithering around.

Mustafa, a snake catcher, is a busy man in Malappuram, now. Since the waters began to recede in the past two days, he has caught over 100 snakes from homes. “It’s quite natural that when floods come, snakes come with it and so do other insects from overflowing ponds and rivers. People who return to clean up their homes should be careful and not put their hands into shoes, under cracked tiles or in wet firewood,” he told IANS.

A hospital in Angamaly in Ernakulam district has treated 52 persons for snakebites in the past four days. Media reports said that several people who came to clean their homes fled upon seeing the snakes.

A doctor at Little Flower Hospital said cobras, kraits and Russell’s vipers had found their way from the forests into abandoned houses.

Most snakebite cases have been reported from Paravur in Ernakulam, one of the areas worst affected by the flood.

The discovery of these reptile occupants in their homes have sparked fear among residents. The Kerala government has announced the provision of adequate anti-venom drugs at all the affected places.


Beware of snakebites

A government campaign has enlisted wildlife conservationist and snake expert Vava Suresh, who has advised people to not panic on seeing reptiles.

“The snakes could be hiding in cupboards, under carpets, in clothes, near doors, in washbasins, closets, shoes and electronic items like washing machines and refrigerators. People should not touch household appliances with bare hands. Instead, they should use a stick to sift through their belongings,” he told a national daily.

Suresh also suggested wiping floors and articles in houses with water mixed with kerosene or diesel as they are believed to keep snakes at bay.

How to avoid snake bites

  • Use sticks and beat around while entering the house noisily. Since snakes cannot see or hear they sense activity through vibrations, the loud noise created by beating sticks on objects or on the floors will cause a sound vibration which will drive them away from you.
  • Do not slide your hands or feet into holes or tiny openings without checking them first.

How to take care of a snake bite

  • If you’re bitten by a snake, do not move, walk or run. Any activity will increase your pulse rate and blood circulation, which might spread the venom across your body. Do not panic, call for help and stay put.
  • Tie the affected area with a compressed band-aid to contain its spread. But do not tie the area too tight.
  • Remove bangles, rings and other jewellery from nearby the affected limb, as the affected area is likely to swell and once that happens ornaments will have to be cut and removed.