Kerala floods: Red alert in 12 of 14 districts, Kochi airport shut till Saturday as rain fury returns
Kerala reeled under flood fury on Wednesday as surging waters led to the Cochin international airport being shut till Saturday, hit rail services and threatened relief camps while a red alert was sounded in 12 out 14 districts following heavy rainfall and opening of shutters of more than 30 dams.
The toll rose to at least 67, many areas were without power or drinking water, while more people were shifted to relief camps including 23,000 in Ernakulam.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the state “is going through a serious situation” and asked everyone to cooperate with the government to deal with the “unprecedented situation”.
This is the first time the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) is being closed for four days after the area was flooded. Operations of international and domestic flights were earlier suspended till 2pm on Wednesday but authorities decided to shut the airport till 2pm on Saturday after reviewing the worsening situation.
“Operations were suspended after water reached the runaway in the early hours of Wednesday. Most of the incoming flights are diverted to Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikkode airports,” CIAL director ACK Nair said.
The airport is situated near the banks of the swollen Periyar river and water from most of the dams in the upper reaches of Idukki is flowing into the river that later merges with the Arabia Sea. Shutters of Idamlayar, Idukki and Mullaperiyar dams were opened on Tuesday night to release excess water from the reservoirs. Sluice gates of 33 dams have now been opened across the state.
The arrival operations were suspended for two hours on August 9 in the view of a possible inundation in the airport area.
All Air India express flights from Cochin will operate from Thiruvananthapuram, a spokesman of the national carrier said.
Train services were disrupted at many places and rail service between Thiruvananthapuram and Kanyakumari was suspended after main bridges were swept away in the gushing waters. Railway officials said all trains in the state will run at a speed of 30kmph to avoid accidents.
Kerala sought more relief and help from the Indian Army and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). The toll in the worst natural disaster in the state could rise further with five people, three in Idukki and one each in Malappuram and Kozhikode districts, have been missing since Tuesday night. Many other marooned have been saved by rescuers.
Many areas were marooned and landslides reported in Kannur, Wayanad and Kozhikode districts. The state government asked visitors to avoid hilly areas as the popular hill station of Munnar was cut off from the rest of Kerala.
People to avoid the Sabarimala hill shrine in Pathanamthitta district as the water level in the nearby rain-fed Pampa River was rising.
The weather department has issued a red alert for Wayanad, Kozhikode, Kannur, Kasaragod, Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki and Ernakulam districts till Thursday. The worst-affected Idukki and Wayanad districts received 80mm of rainfall in the last 24 hours, a spokesperson of the regional office of the meteorological department said.
Meanwhile, the Mullaperiyar dam in Idukki, which serves neighbouring Tamil Nadu, again became an issue between the two states with the neigbouring state refused to take more water from the dam where water level reached the maximum 142 feet. Chief minister Vijayan is likely to talk to his Tamil Nadu counterpart Edappadi K Palaniswami on the issue again.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the flood-hit state of Kerala in his address to the nation on the 72nd Independence Day.
“Many parts of the nation witnessed a good monsoon but at the same time parts of India have been affected by flooding. My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives due to floods in various parts of India,” Modi said.
In his Independence Day speech delivered in pouring rain, Vijayan said: “We are celebrating this year’s Independence Day when the floods have ravaged the state. It is a disaster that has never been witnessed in the state. But if all of us join hands, we will be able to handle any disaster.”
He said good work by armed forces and NDRF personnel have helped save many lives, while the “state has shown the world that it can overcome the worst situations through commitment and hard work”.
Vijayan also urged people to contribute generously to the Chief Minister Distress Relief Fund in the wake of the state’s worst flood disaster in 94 years.