Kerala: 24 dead as torrential rain leaves trail of destruction

The death toll in rain-battered Kerala touched 24 on Thursday even as the state government, the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and other Central forces battled all odds to rescue people stranded due to flooding in many parts of the state.

The death toll in rain-battered Kerala touched 24 on Thursday even as the state government and other Central teams battled all odds to rescue people stranded due to flooding in many parts of the state.

While 11 people lost their lives in Idukki – the worst affected part of the state – five died in Malapuram, three in Wayanad, two each in Kannur and Ernakulam one in Kozhikode. In Kochi two Class 12 students died after they ventured out for fishing in the flooded waters near Kochi.

All lives were lost in the last 24 hours to heavy rains and landslides.

Union Minister KJ Alphons said on Thursday that the floods in Kerala caused by incessant rains for the past two weeks are “unprecedented”.

“It is the biggest rain we had in 50 years,” he said, adding, “Armed forces to fly to Kerala immediately. Six central rescue teams already there.”

Alphons said that all the dams in the affected areas have been opened.

The Cochin international airport was shut for all arrivals in the afternoon as water from a ballooning Periyar river reached the compound. Water level in the river started rising after the opening of all four gates of the Idamalayar dam on Wednesday.

The airport was reopened at 3 pm after waters receded.

Six teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) left from Chennai to Kerala. NDRF said that the teams have been deployed in Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Wayanad, Kozhikode and Palakkad to carry out Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) work.

According to reports, the Indian Army has deployed three columns of 75 persons each at Ayannkulu, Idukki and Wayanad. Two additional columns are moving to Kozikode and Malappuram. The Army will also deploy an Engineer Task Force.

Four diving teams and one Sea King helicopter from Indian Navy’s Southern Naval Command have been sent to Wayanad for evacuating stranded people.

Ernakulam District Collector said on Thursday that all educational institutions and professional colleges at Kothamangalam, Kunnathunad, Aluva, Paravur Taluk, and Kadamakkudy will remain closed on Friday due to the flood situation.

A Central team visited Kannappankundu, Kodenchery, Elanthukadavu Bridge and Anakkampoyil today to take stock of the situation.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan postponed the annual Nehru boat race in Alappuzha which was to be held on 11 August following forecast of more rains.

Vijayan said earlier today that the rains had caused extensive damage to life and property across the state.

“Since more rains are forecast, as a matter of abundant caution, it has been decided to postpone the upcoming Nehru boat race on the Punnamada lake. The new dates will be announced by the organisers,” he said.

He said the Central team had agreed to provide all help.

“Since heavy rains have led to widespread loss and destruction, we call upon all to donate to the Chief Minister’s Fund,” Vijayan said.

As the water level reached the danger mark, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) opened one of the shutters of the Idukki dam at 12.30 pm today after a gap of 26 years.

The move was a trial run to assess the water flow. Reports say that the shutter will remain open through the night. At 4 pm today, the water level was 2399.56 feet – just a couple of feet away from the full capacity of 2403 feet.

The KSEB said that more shutters will be opened tomorrow if the water level does not fall.

Vijayan held an emergency meeting and appointed senior official PH Kurian to lead the rescue and relief operations. A special monitoring cell has been opened in the state Secretariat and all the 14 district collectors have been directed to open one monitoring centre in each district.

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