At least 29  people have died and nearly 54,000 people rendered homeless since August 8 as Kerala continues to experience unprecedented rainfall in its history. A red alert has been issued as dam reservoirs and rivers are overflowing. Sections of highways collapsed on Friday and homes were swept away in severe flooding in more than half of Kerala.

According to reports, several people are reported missing.

Five columns of Army have been deployed in the state’s seven severely-hit northern districts to help evacuate people and build makeshift bridges. The Indian Navy’s Southern Command was put on alert Friday after water level in Periyar river rose. There was concern that parts of Wellingdon Island in Kochi could be inundated.

Officials said almost all 40-odd rivers in the state were in spate.

Of the 29 people who lost their lives, 25 died in landslides and four due to drowning, officials said, adding a total of 53,501 people were now housed in 439 relief camps across the state.

At least 50 tourists, 24 of them foreigners, who had been stranded at the Plum Judy resort in Munnar since Wednesday, were rescued and taken to safer places, said Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran.

Roads caved in at many places in Idukki, and tourists were barred from entering the hilly district. Army soldiers built small makeshift bridges in Kozhikode and Wayanad to evacuate people stranded at various places.

The National Disaster Management Authority has released helpline numbers across Kerala.

A red alert was issued for Idukki and its adjoining districts as there is possibility of more water being released from the reservoir.

People living downstream of Periyar river in Kochi and Cheruthoni river in Idukki have been warned of a possibility of inundation of banks.

With water level crossing the maximum storage capacity of reservoirs at 24 out of the 58 dams in Kerala, officials were forced to release the water by opening the sluice gates. After a gap of 26 years, one shutter of the Idukki reservoir was opened on Thursday. ON Friday, two more shutters were opened.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reviewed the flood situation and relief works being undertaken by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and the NDRF on Friday.

“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 this would lead to rise in the water levels of Periyar river and its tributaries. He appealed to people to be vigilant.

Vijayan has cancelled all his public functions till August 12, and will monitor the situation from the state capital.

Union minister Alphons Kannamthanam said he discussed the flood situation with Home Minister Rajnath Singh. 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.

Kerala floods
Security personnel carry out rescue operation in flood-affected areas in Idukki, Kerala. (Photo: DPRO)

 

Col. Ajai Sharma, the commandant of DSC Centre, who is overseeing relief and rescue operations, said five columns of Army had been deployed in the northern districts since Thursday night.

“The haphazard development along the streams has affected the natural flow of rivers, which is a challenge right now,” he said, adding: “The situation is under control.”

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.

Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force (IAF) deployed five An-32 transport aircraft, two Mi-17 V5 helicopters and an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) for rescue and relief operations.

Five An-32 transport aircraft were deployed to transport National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams and their equipment from Arakkonam to Kozhikode, an IAF spokesperson said.

Two NDRF teams from Vijaywada and two teams of Army Engineering Group from Bangalore and Hyderabad have been transported to Kozhikode. Two Mi-17 V5 were pressed into service for distribution of relief material and winching operations.

“The IAF will continue its assistance till the situation is normalized,” the spokesperson said.

(With agency inputs)