THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With heavy rains lashing across central and north Kerala, the state has been witnessing a never-before-seen-scenario with 22 deaths reported in a day. As many as 22 dams including Idamalayar have been opened while a couple of more dams could be opened soon.
Most of the deaths have been reported from Idukki district (11), followed by Malappuram (6), Kozhikode (2) and Wayanad (1) in the last 24 hours. The government has also postponed the Nehru Trophy Boat race in view of the flood situation. Two deaths have been reported from Ernakulam district in the rain fury that devastated several parts of the state in the last 24 hours.
Two plus-2 students of St Thomas HSS, Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district, drowned after they were washed away from near Thattupalam, Airapuram.
Only after an intensive search operation by the Fire Force could their bodies be recovered, police said. With this, the total death toll in the rain-related accidents rose to 22 in the state.
Talking to reporters after a review meeting, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the flood situation in the state was "very grim" and it was for the first time in the history of the state that 22 dams have been opened at a time following the water level reaching its maximum capacity.
"With the heavy rains continuing like this, Kakki dam could also be opened. That could lead to inundation of Kuttanad region," said Pinarayi.
The state has already submitted its request for assistance before the central delegation which held a meeting with the CM at the state capital on Thursday.
With incessant rains causing heavy damages in many districts, teams from the Army and NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) have already swung into action. While major damages were reported from Malappuram, Kozhikode and Idukki districts, the land-locked region of Wayanad has been fully cut off.
The state government has sought assistance from the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, NDRF and the Military Intelligence. Three teams of NDRF have been deployed in Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Kozhikode while two more teams are on the way. The state has sought six more NDRF teams to be deployed, said the Chief Minister.
Necessary rescue equipment for the Army would be brought from Bengaluru to Kozhikode and Kochi by air and would be transported to affected regions by road.
In view of the emergency scenario, a 24-hour monitoring cell under Revenue Additional Chief Secretary PH Kurian has been set up at the Secretariat. In addition, monitoring cells are operational at all Collectorates.
With the increasing water level at Kuttanad, the Nehru Trophy Boat race scheduled for August 11 has been postponed. The revised date would be announced later.
The Chief Minister urged the public to restrain caution. "Rescue operation should not have any hindrance. Public going near dams to view opening of shutters, is not advisable. Only those assigned for rescue operations should be allowed. Tourists are advised to exercise caution," Pinarayi said while adding that those taking part in the Vavubali ritual should also be careful.
The government has issued directives to the police and fire force personnel to coordinate rescue operations. Officials have been directed to involve MLAs and other people's representatives in relief measures.
CM urges the public to come forward to donate for relief measures
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged the public to come forward to donate for relief measures. Those willing to donate can contribute to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF). "I would urge everyone to come forward and contribute for relief measures in this time of crissi," requested Pinarayi.
Cochin International Airport resumes operations after briefly stopping arrivals
Scores of passengers were left stranded as the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) was forced to partially shut down operations due to flooding on Thursday. Heavy rains and the rise in water levels in Periyar river due to Idamalayar dam opening its shutters led to spillage of water at CIAL premises.
Even though, according to an official press release, CIAL claims that only inbound flights were disrupted for two hours in the afternoon, passenger tales paint a different reality. Many international flights were reported to be delayed or cancelled by passengers who were denied entry at the gates of the international terminal.
"I had 5.30pm Indigo flight to Dubai, but was refused entry and was informed that flight has been cancelled for the day," said Irfan, a resident of Kochi. Somnath Panicker, who came to drop his daughter who was to travel by a 5 pm flight to Muscat reported the flight getting delayed by more than three hours. According to passengers, as many as three international flights were reported to be cancelled on Thursday. Inbound flights to Kochi were diverted to Coimbatore, Bangalore and Trivandrum airports during the partial shutdown.
Excess water entering the Chengalthodu canal from Periyar river adjacent to CIAL premises led to water being accumulated at the parking bay and spillover of the drainage canal. The airport officials were seen rapidly pumping water out water over its wall to reduce to the level of water accumulated inside. With the Cheruthoni dam set to open its shutters after a span of 22 years on Friday, operations at CIAL is set to be possibly disrupted again.
Relief and rescue efforts begin in Wayanad
Hours after being cut off from the rest of the state following landslides along three arterial ghat roads, rescue efforts have begun in full swing in the hilly district of Wayanad.
In addition to a team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from Chennai, Army personnel and men from Defence Security Corps from Kannur have landed in the district for relief and rescue operations. Over the last two days, the district received 39.8 cm of rain, causing widespread destruction.
The district administration has issued an alert to the public in the wake of water level rising in rivers and streams. Public has been advised to stay away from water bodies as the shutters of the Banasurasagar dam has been opened.
Public in landslide-prone areas have been asked to remain on alert and to move to safer places if authorities direct so.
Meanwhile, the Met Department has forecast rainfall to the tune of seven to 11 cm in the district on Thursday.
(With inputs from PTI)