Weather alert

Kerala: Toll in rain-related incidents rises to 29, red alert issued for Idukki, Wayanad districts

More than 53,000 people are now housed in 439 relief camps across the state, officials said.

The toll in Kerala due to heavy rainfall and landslides rose to 29 on Friday, The Indian Express reported. Of them, 25 died in landslides and four by drowning. Eleven deaths were reported from Idukki district alone. The India Meteorological Department has forecast more rain.

State officials said 53,501 people were now housed in 439 relief camps across the state, PTI reported.

Ten teams of the National Disaster Response Force, along with teams from the Army, the Air Force, the Navy and the Coast Guard have been deployed to districts such as Palakkad, Kozhikode, Idukki, Wayanad and Malappuram.

Eight columns of Army, four Navy teams and three Coast Guard teams are carrying out relief operations in different parts of the state, The Hindu reported. The Indian Navy’s southern command has been put on alert after the water level in Periyar river rose amid concerns that parts of Willingdon Island in Kochi could be inundated.

The Army rescued 30 tourists stranded in Munnar, reported the Hindustan Times. Around 50 tourists, including 24 foreigners, who were trapped after a landslide near Plum Judy Resort at Pallivasal near Munnar were also rescued and moved to a safer place, PTI reported, quoting the state’s Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran.

A red alert has been issued for Idukki and its adjoining districts. Tourists have been barred from entering the district as roads caved in at many places, reported PTI. The Kerala Disaster Management Authority has issued a red alert in Wayanad district till August 14, according to Mathrubhumi.

A red alert has also been issued in Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Palakkad, Malappuram and Kozhikode districts till Saturday. “Officials have been instructed to provide food, water, clothes and toilet facilities for the people staying in relief camps,” Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said. “The service of doctors has been ensured in the camps.”

Due to the increase in water level at Idukki dam, Vijayan said “it is essential to release water three times [more] than what was being released now”. He urged people to be vigilant since this will lead to a rise in the water levels of Periyar river and its tributaries. He has also cancelled all his public functions till Sunday to monitor relief work.

Meanwhile, schools in affected districts remained shut on Friday. The all-India trade test organised by the National Council for Vocational Training has been postponed.

The Kerala government has requested the Centre for “immediate help”, the Hindustan Times reported. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that he has offered Vijayan all possible assistance. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Kerala in the wake of this calamity,” Modi tweeted.

Union Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh said he spoke to Vijayan and “assured all possible assistance from the Centre” to the Kerala government. “The relief and rescue ops are going on,” Singh tweeted. “MHA [Ministry of Home Affairs] is closely monitoring the flood situation.”

Singh will go to Kerala on Sunday.

Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy discussed the situation in Kerala with Vijayan and has allocated Rs 10 crore for disaster management, Manorama Online reported. The Edappadi K Palaniswami-led Tamil Nadu government also agreed to release 75,000 cusecs of water from Kabini reservoir in Mysuru district, to tackle flash floods caused by excessive backwaters in Kerala. The Tamil Nadu government had earlier announced a contribution of Rs 5 crore towards relief operations.

The rain has led to a rise in water levels at dams in the affected districts. Authorities have opened all five shutters of the Cheruthoni dam of the Idukki reservoir on Friday morning. The first shutters were opened on Thursday after 26 years. People living along the banks of the Periyar and the Cheruthoni rivers have been alerted about the shutter openings, Manorama Online reported.

Kochi in Ernakulam district is also bracing for floods as the water level in the Periyar river has been rising since the fourth sluice gate of the Idukki reservoir was opened. “We are on a high alert,” District Collector Mohamed Safirulla told the Hindustan Times. “At least 4,000 people living in low-lying areas have been evacuated to relief camps. We have closed all educational institutions in affected areas.”

Vijayan warned of strict action against those found spreading rumours about dam openings. He asked people to call toll-free numbers 7902200300, 7902200400 and 04842423513 for updates.

The United States has asked its citizens not to visit Kerala. “Avoid all areas throughout Kerala affected by landslides and flash floods,” PTI quoted the US advisory as saying.

The Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery resumed flight operations after it was halted as a precautionary measure after the shutters of the Cheruthoni dam were opened. The airport operations may be affected if the water level in the Periyar river rises beyond 3 feet, officials said.

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