As Kerala rains continued to wreak havoc, the number of weather-related deaths touched 20 on Thursday. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan postponed Saturday’s annual Nehru boat race in Alappuzha in view of forecast of heavy showers.

Speaking to the media, Vijayan said rains had caused extensive damage to life and properties across the state. “We have sought six additional teams of National Disaster Response Force,” he added.

The deaths include 11 from Idukki, six from Malappuram, two in Kozhikode and one in Wayanad.

“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,” said Vijayan.

He pointed out that the central team already assessing the damage caused by the earlier rains had agreed to provide all help.

“Since this episode has led to widespread loss and destruction, the requirement of money is there and we call upon all who are willing to donate. They can do it to the Chief Minister’s Fund,” Vijayan said.

Meanwhile, after a gap of 26 years, one shutter of the Idukki dam was opened for four hours as part of a trial run and to assess the flow of water. Four shutters of the Idamalayar dam were also opened in the morning. The opening of the dam shutters resulted in an increase in the water level in the Periyar river.

As a precaution, the Cochin International Airport Limited, which is situated close to the Periyar river, stopped the arrival operations on Thursday and diverted all incoming flights to other destinations, anticipating a possible inundation in the airport area.

“As a measure of precaution, we are stopping arrival operations from 1.10 pm today,” a CIAL spokesperson said.

The Ernakulam district administration conducted a review of the situation at the airport after the water level in a canal near it started rising.

Heavy rains have been lashing several parts of Kerala for the past few days, leading to a copious inflow into the state’s reservoirs.

Earlier, Power Minister MM Mani, who is from Idukki, said: “Things are pretty bad and I have visited the affected areas on Thursday morning.”

Vijayan held an emergency meeting in Thiruvananthapuram to assess the situation 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 14 district collectors had been directed to open one each as well.

(With agency inputs)