Venomous snakes take over empty houses in flood-hit Kerala

Vava Suresh

Kochi: People displaced by the floods in Kerala are returning home to the frightening sight of venomous cobras and Russell’s vipers slithering around in their bathrooms or coiled inside cupboards and washbasins.

Incidents of snake bites have been reported from various parts of the state in the last five days.

Doctors at a private hospital in nearby Angamaly, for instance, have attended to 53 cases of snake bites from 15 to 20 August, authorities said. A doctor at the Angamaly Little Flower Hospital said cobras, kraits and Russell’s vipers found their way from the forests into abandoned houses.

“These reptiles have entered flooded homes and other structures. So those who step into their houses for cleaning after the floodwaters have receded should be very careful,” the doctor said.

The public relations wing of the state government has launched a social media campaign against the snake menace. One such campaign has roped in wildlife conservationist and snake expert Vava Suresh, who has captured more than 140 king cobras over the years.

He has advised people not to panic on seeing reptiles. “The snakes could be hiding in cupboards, under carpets, in clothes, near doors, in wash basins, closets, shoes and electronic items like washing machines and refrigerators.

“People should not touch household appliances with bare hands. Instead, they should hold a stick to sift through their belongings,” he said. He also suggested wiping floors and articles in the house using water mixed with kerosene or diesel as this is believed to keep snakes away.

Suresh, who has been bitten several times by venomous snakes, also advised people to properly check their cars and two-wheelers parked in porches as the reptiles might have found a hiding place in them too.

Heavy rains and floods over the past fortnight in Kerala have left 223 dead and forced over 10 lakh people out of their homes. With rains easing and water receding in some areas, many people have started returning to their homes.