Rains subside in Kerala, massive search on for missing people
Heavy downpour, triggered by low pressure in the Arabian Sea, subsided a bit on Sunday but the unseasonal rain has left a trail of destruction in two central Kerala districts claiming 18 lives while many are still missing.
Defence forces are helping the district administrations in removing the mound of slush and boulders to locate the missing. Kottayam and Idukki district administrations have confirmed the death of 14 people so far but local people said the death toll is higher than 20 and at least 14 people are still missing from two worst-affected areas in Kottickal in Kottayam and Kokkayar in Idukki district.
“I was playing outside the house when I heard a deafening noise. When my father and others came out, we saw gushing water and boulders coming down from the nearby hill. Our house was decimated in no time and we were swept away in seconds. I got hold of a tree branch and later fell into a stream and swam across it,” said 11-year-old Jabin, who had a miraculous escape. He is undergoing treatment in a hospital in Poonjar for a minor fracture. Search is on for his missing father and other relatives.
In Kottickal, three generations of a family of six were washed away in surging waters. Bodies of grandmother Claramma Joseph (65), her daughter-in-law and a grandchild were recovered. Survivors in Kottickal said even in the worst flood of 2018 they were least affected and the area has no history of landslides or flash floods.
Heavy rains began in Kottickal area on Friday night and a landslide took place around 10 in the morning on Saturday. The whole area was cut off after roads were damaged, local residents said. Water and slush travelled around 12 kms to hit human settlements.
Though rains subsided, the threat of landslides and severe waterlogging across multiple districts continues, according to rescue officials. Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a Facebook post on Sunday said the government will do everything possible to save lives and rescue operation is in full swing. He said 105 relief camps have been set up and asked people in camps to adhere to Covid-19 protocol to ward off the pandemic threat.
Weather experts said cloud bursts triggered torrential rains at several places in Kottayam and Idukki districts. Cloud burst is a pattern of torrential downpour in a limited area in a short span.
“The pattern of the rains shows it is a cloudburst. Some of the areas in Idukki and Kottayam received more than 20 cms rainfall in two to three hours,” said Dr M G Manoj, Cochin University of Science and Technology.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has assured all help to Kerala. “We are continuously monitoring the situation in parts of Kerala in the wake of heavy rains and flooding. The central government will provide all possible help to the state,” he tweeted on Sunday.