At least 37 people have died and over 54,000 people rendered homeless as incessant rains caused massive destructions in Kerala. Rivers and dam reservoirs overflowed, several areas flooded and parts of highways collapsed, officials said on Friday. Heavy southwest monsoon rains have been lashing northern and central Kerala since August 8. And 40-odd rivers in the state are in spate, triggering crisis situation in the state, officials said.
Water in 24 dam reservoirs overflowed. Officials had to release the water by opening the sluice gates, including three of the Idukki reservoirs. Two more shutters of the Cheruthoni dam, part of the Idukki reservoir, the biggest arch dam in Asia, were lifted around 7 am on Friday.
A red alert was sounded for Idukki and its adjoining districts in view of the possibility of release of more water from the Idukki reservoir.
In view of the disastrous situation across the state, the Navy’s Southern Command launched Operation Madad on Thursday after water in Periyar river rose to the danger level. The Navy has evacuated over 55 people from flood-hit areas in the state. A total of 53,501 people are now housed in 439 relief camps across the state, the officials said.
Tourists were warned not to enter the hilly Idukki district after roads caved in at many places. Army soldiers were building small bridges to evacuate people stranded at various places in Kozhikode and Wayanad. Five columns of Army have also been deployed in the state’s northern districts to help evacuate people and to build makeshift bridges.
As many as 69 tourists, including 24 foreigners, stranded at the Plum Judy resort at Munnar since Wednesday were rescued and taken to safer places, state Tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran told reporters.
State Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reviewed the flood situation on Friday morning and checked the relief works being undertaken by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and the NDRF. Vijayan has cancelled all his public functions till August 12, and will monitor the situation from the state capital.
Due to the increase in the water level at Idukki dam, “it is essential to release water three times (more) than what was being released now”, Vijayan said, adding that this will lead to rise in the water levels of Periyar river and its tributaries. He appealed to people to be vigilant.
People living downstream of Periyar river in Kochi, and Cheruthoni river in Idukki have been warned of a possibility of inundation of banks.
Union minister Alphons Kannamthanam said he discussed the flood situation in Kerala with Home Minister Rajnath Singh this morning. Singh also spoke with Vijayan, and will make an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas on Sunday.
”The Government of India is providing all the required assistance including services of armed forces, disaster management team and other required assistance. Any other immediate assistance requested by the Government of Kerala will be provided,” Alphons said in a Facebook post.
Meanwhile, state Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan reviewed the flood situation and the precautionary measures to be taken in Aluva near Kochi airport and nearby areas in view of the possibility of increase in the water level following release of more water from Idukki reservoir.
Periyar river in Aluva is already in spate following release of water from Idamalayar dam, and people living in low-lying areas have been asked to be vigilant.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Vijayan on Thursday, and offered all possible assistance to those affected.
However, Cochin International Airport Limited sources said operations at the airport had not been affected. ”The operational area is intact. No cancellation of services so far,” an airport spokesperson said.
(With inputs from agencies)