THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At least five persons died and 18 went missing in landslides and flash floods on Saturday as torrential rain battered the state and two landslides occurring in Kottayam and Idukki districts.
While three died and 11 people went missing in a landslide at Koottikkal in Kottayam, seven went missing in a landslide at Kokkayar in Idukki. A man and woman travelling in a car were washed away in the flash floods at Kanjar in Thodupuzha.
Heavy rain that began on Friday night continued all through the day in south and central Kerala. The rain which was moderate in north Kerala during the day intensified by evening leading to flash flooding in some places in Kozhikode, Malappuram and Kannur districts.
According to IMD officials, the heavy rain on Saturday was caused by the low pressure area that lay over Southeast Arabian Sea off Kerala coast and the associated cyclonic circulation. The pressure formation moved towards the state on Saturday, leading to torrential rain. "Rain will continue strong till Sunday noon and its intensity will come down in the afternoon as the low pressure area wanes," said an IMD official.
For Sunday, red alert has not been sounded for any district. Yellow alert --- warning of likely heavy rain --- has been sounded for Pathanamthaitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Malappuram, Kannur and Kasaragod districts for Sunday.
The IMD has asked people to take precaution against lightning between 2 pm and 10pm on Sunday.
The worst-hit regions are high range areas of Kottayam and Idukki where flash floods in Manimala and Meenachil rivers and a series of landslips on the Western Ghats caused heavy damage to life and property.
With roads getting inundated, several villages in the high range areas were cut off. Kanjirappally, Mundakkayam, Erumeli towns were flooded. A team of Army personnel led by Major Abin Paul was deployed at Kanjirappally to lead rescue operations in the region.
Amid fears of a repeat of the catastrophic floods in 2018, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the situation is not expected to become worse. "The latest climate forecast offers relief. We are not headed to a worse situation," he said after a high-level review meeting on Saturday evening.
The meeting decided to evacuate people from areas prone to floods and landslides. The CM asked officers to take special care on dam management. Evacuation warnings for people in the catchment areas should be given well in advance. The district administration and departments of power and water resources should make joint efforts, he said.
The meeting decided to postpone the opening of colleges in the state scheduled for Monday to October 20. The Sabarimala pilgrimage for Thulam month pooja will be suspended till Tuesday as IMD forecast that rain will continue till that day.
The CM asked district administrations to seek help from the NDRF teams camping in the state. Army, Navy and Air Force can also be called in.
Local self-governments have been asked to prepare the list of boats available for rescue activities. The Motor Vehicles Department has prepared a region-wise list of earth movers, tippers, cranes and ambulances for emergency rescue operations.
Revenue Minister K Rajan reached Kottayam on Saturday night to coordinate the rescue operations. He will camp at Kottayam till the situation becomes normal.
Minister VN Vasavan, who was in Kottayam, visited Koottikkal and Kanjirappally regions. Fire and Rescue Services director general B Sandhya directed a team of 25 officials to move to Kottayam immediately with rescue apparatus.
The assistance of the air force was also sought by the state government to lead relief operations in Kottayam and Idukki. But, the air force team could not leave Sulur air base till Saturday night because of bad weather.
Power supply has been widely disrupted across the state as rain intensified. KSEB suffered huge losses in Kottayam district. Transmission lines and transformers suffered serious damage in Pathanamthitta, Thrissur and Palakkad districts. In addition, several high tension lines and transformers had to be switched off owing to safety reasons.