Heavy rains refused to relent as Kerala lost eight more lives on Wednesday. In his Independence Day speech, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought generous public contributions to fight the worst floods the state has seen in nearly a century. The Kerala floods have claimed 47 lives in all since August 8, according to official figures.
A red alert has been sounded in 11 of the 14 districts. These are Idukki, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram, Pathanamthitta, Kannur and Ernakulam. A ‘red alert’ means huge devastation is expected.
The Cochin airport, one of the three international airports in the state and the busiest of all, has been shut till Saturday as flood waters from the swelling Periyar river entered the complex.
Airport Director ACK Nair called the development “unprecedented”.
“Why we decided to take this step is because since last night dams like Idukki, Mullaperiyar, Idamalayar have opened their shutters. The water released reaches the Periyar river and one of its tributaries flows close to the airport and it is overflowing, sending the waters to our operational area,” he said.
Nair pointed out that it was decided to close down the airport operations since more rains were predicted.
“Once the water recedes, it will take us 24 hours to clean up the area. Then only flights will resume. As of now we have decided to close down the airport till 2 pm of August 18,” he said.
Airlines IndiGo, Air India and SpiceJet have announced suspension of their operations to Kochi.
“All flights to/fro Kochi, stand cancelled till Aug 16, 2018 due to runway unavailability owing to flood situation.
For cancellations/rescheduling, please visit bit.ly/2ndGnZ8 We hope everything gets normal soon,” IndiGo said in a tweet.
All flights to/fro Kochi, stand cancelled till Aug 16, 2018 due to runway unavailability owing to flood situation. For cancellations/rescheduling, please visit https://t.co/ofwzjniT1l
We hope everything gets normal soon.
— IndiGo (@IndiGo6E) August 15, 2018
Air India tweeted: “In view of suspension of operations at @KochiAirport, penalties on no-show, date/flight change or cancellations on all confirmed tickets to and from Cochin are waived off. Pax may contact #airindia call centre or #airindia website.”
#FlyAI :#UPDATE #airindia In view of suspension of operations at @KochiAirport , penalties on no-show, date/flight change or cancellations on all confirmed tickets to and from Cochin are waived off. Pax may contact #airindia call centre or #airindia website. pic.twitter.com/LB6IDCmng6
— Air India (@airindiain) August 15, 2018
Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts are on orange alert, where authorities and people have been asked to be prepared as there is a higher likelihood of bad weather.
Among those who died on Wednesday include a couple in Malappuram whose house crumbled and they were crushed under it. Their six-year-old child is reported missing.
A man died in a Munnar lodge as it crashed, while a 70-year-old woman near Pathanamthitta was electrocuted after her house was submerged. There were landslides too in Malappuram, while claimed lives.
Munnar has been closed for traffic, following flooding, while the Sabarimala temple has warned pilgrims not to come in view of the surging rivers nearby. With Pamba river in spate, the temple was closed to devotees on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, relief camps are bursting at the seams. People who had earlier returned to their homes in Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Wayanad districts are back there.
The Thiruvananthapuram district witnessed heavy rains on Wednesday, which submerged several low-lying areas. As many as 14 relief camps were opened on Wednesday.
In the capital city, Chief Minister Vijayan took the Independence Day salute despite rains and urged everyone to contribute generously to overcome the challenge of the floods and its destruction.
CM Pinarayi Vijayan extended his greetings to all on the occasion of Independence day. It is a celebration of the memory of a great struggle, CM hoped that #IndependenceDayIndia will be a source of hope for the people of Kerala who are battling an unprecedented floods.
— CMO Kerala (@CMOKerala) August 15, 2018
In a first, sluice gates of 33 dams have been opened across Kerala, following incessant rains since late Tuesday. More rains have been forecast till Saturday.
The Idukki dam floodgates were reopened late on Tuesday as the water level in the Periyar river and its tributaries flowing through Ernakulam and Thrissur districts rose menacingly.
People living in and around the Mullaperiyar dam were evacuated late Tuesday, before the shutters of the dam were opened at 2.35 am after its water level crossed 140 feet.
Meanwhile, railway sources said a landslide between Kuzhithurai and Eraniel stations delayed four trains — Guruvayur-Chennai Egmore express, Kanyakumari-Mumbai CSMT express, Dibugarh-Kanyakumari Vivek Express and Gandhidham-Tirunelveli Humsafar Express.
A few passenger trains have been partially hit and rail traffic on Kollam-Punalur-Sengottai section has been suspended due to adverse weather conditions.
The engineering department is continuously monitoring the safety of bridges, railways said.
The heaviest rains and floods since 1924 have caused massive destruction. Over 50,000 people are in relief camps and the damage to crops and properties is estimated to be over Rs 8,000 crore.
According to weather officials, heavy rainfall accompanied by gusty winds with speed reaching 60 kmph, is expected in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Kozhikode districts.
From Kasaragod in the north to Thiruvananthapuram in the south, all rivers are in spate.
(With agency inputs)