18 dead, dozens missing in Kerala after floods; IMD says rain to subside
As many as 18 people were killed and dozens of others went missing on Saturday as heavy rain lashed south and central Kerala causing flash floods and landslides in many parts of the southern state, officials said. “The situation is really serious in some parts of the state. We will do everything possible to save lives. We have sought help from the army, navy and air force. Relief camps have been set up in the districts,” Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a statement after chairing an emergency meeting in the state capital.
Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Idukki districts were worst affected due to the torrential rains. Chief minister Vijayan said all government agencies have been directed to take necessary steps to rescue people from the affected regions and evacuate those living in areas prone to landslides and floods. Vijayan also directed the district collectors to open relief camps to relocate the affected people and said the camps should function strictly adhering to Covid-19 protocol.
Officials have said several people have also been injured and displaced in rain-related incidents in Kerala where dams in many districts are nearing their full capacity and small towns and villages in the hilly areas are totally cut off. Authorities have said everything was under control and there was no need for any panic even as the high ranges of central and south Kerala are experiencing a similar situation the state faced during the devastating floods of 2018 and 2019.
Here's what we know so far:
1. The India Meteorological Department issued a red alert for Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki and Thrissur districts and an orange alert for Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alapuzha, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad districts of the southern state.
2. However, the IMD said in a tweet late on Saturday that intense rainfall activity over Kerala will “reduce significantly from tomorrow, the 17th”. “Main activity to remain confined between 17th afternoon to 18th forenoon,” it added.
3. Officials have advised people against visiting tourist spots and going near rivers and other water bodies in view of heavy rain in Thiruvananthapuram. Destruction of roads was reported in many places including in Kollam and Kottayam districts while severe waterlogging made life miserable in the Kuttanad region, popularly known as the 'rice bowl' of the state spread in Alappuzha and Kottayam districts.
4. A defence spokesperson said that Mi-17 and Sarang helicopters are already on standby but they could not start operations as the weather at Kottayam is still bad. Air Force assets are still at Sulur in a standby mode, she said. "All the bases under Southern Air Command have been put on high alert in view of the prevalent weather situation at Kerala," the spokesperson said in a statement.
5. “The Indian Army has already deployed army personnel to the flood affected areas. One column consisting of One Officer, 2 JCOs and 30 other ranks of army personnel already moved to Kanjirappally, Kottayam District from Pangode Military Station...," she said.
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6. The Southern Naval Command of the Indian Navy said it is fully ready for assisting local administration in rescue operations. "Diving&Rescue teams are ready to be deployed at short notice.Helicopters stand-by to be launched once weather is conducive for Air Ops," it tweeted.
7. Officials said personnel of the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy were on their way to Koottickal and Peruvanthanam—the two hilly villages under Kottayam and Idukki districts respectively—where an overflowing river swept through houses, displacing and isolating many.
8. State cooperation minister VN Vasavan, who reached the neighbourhood of these landslide-hit villages, said the bodies of two women and a child who died, were recovered while search was on to recover that of a man who also lost his life. He said at least 12 people are missing from these villages.
9. The state government has decided not to allow pilgrims to trek to the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, situated in a dense forest in Pathanamthitta district, till October 18. The temple was opened at 5pm on Saturday for 'Thula masam' poojas.
10. All colleges and higher education centres, which were scheduled to reopen on October 18, will now start on October 20, the government statement said.
(With agency inputs)