KOTTAYAM: The death toll due to flash floods and landslides caused by heavy rains in Kerala rose to 19 on Sunday afternoon with Kottayam reporting 12 deaths, Idukki 6 and Kozhikode 1.
The bodies of all the 11 persons reported missing following a landslide in Koottickal panchayat in Kottayam has been recovered. The deceased have been identified as Claramma, Sini, Sona, Sandra, Martin, Sneha, Roshini, Sarasamma Mohan, Sonia, Alan, and Shallet.
A series of landslides had struck the eastern high ranges of Kottayam district and the western part of Idukki district. This is the worst case of rain-related damage ever recorded in Kottayam.
Koottickal panchayat in Kottayam bore the brunt of the rain fury, with three houses and a tea shop washed away in two different landslides reported in Plappalli and Kavali.
Earlier, several persons were reported missing in the landslide at Kokkayar in Idukki. Due to heavy rains, the rescue operations led by National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team and a dog squad were affected at Kokkayar. Out of the seven missing in Kokkayar, five are children.
Meanwhile, in view of 'red alert' in five districts of Kerala, Southern Naval Command headquarters in Kochi has gone up in readiness for assisting local administration in rescue operations. The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) has sought assistance from Southern Naval Command at Kochi for airlifting of marooned families at Koottickal village in Kottayam. KSDMA is in touch with Naval Authorities. The diving and rescue teams are ready to be deployed at short notice. In addition, helicopters are also ready to be deployed once the weather is conducive for air operations.
An alert by the IMD said the low-pressure area over the Southeast Arabian sea and adjoining Kerala has become less marked. However, a trough of low at mean sea level now lies over Southeast adjoining east-central Arabian Sea off north Kerala-Karnataka coasts. "Possibility of light to moderate rainfall at many places with only isolated heavy rainfall over Kerala during next 24 hours and further decrease thereafter," it said.
It may be recalled that on Saturday, three persons were killed and three others of a family went missing in Kavali, while as many as eight persons were washed away in Plappalli. The deceased were identified as Klaramma Joseph, 65, her daughter-in-law Simi, 35, and the latter’s daughter Sona, 10. Their bodies were recovered by rescue workers. Simi’s husband Martin and two other children remain missing.
Unconfirmed reports said the body of a person who went missing from Plappalli was recovered from Peruvanthanam panchayat in Idukki, downstream of the Manimala river.
Seven others, including women and children, reportedly went missing in a landslide at Poovanchi in Kokkayar panchayat in Idukki. While local people rescued two, the search for seven persons was progressing. Several areas in the high ranges, including Koottikkal and Kokkayar panchayats, remain isolated with road access to these areas cut off after a bridge was washed away at Yendayar. Landslide also caused heavy flooding in the Koottikkal town.
Though landslides occurred at Cholathadam in Poonjar Thekkekkara, Inchiyani near Mundakkayam, and Pullupara near Peruvanthanam in Idukki, no casualty was reported from these areas. Meanwhile, the landslides caused flash floods in the lower regions. Unconfirmed reports said that several persons were stranded in various places, including Yendayar, Ilamkadu, and Kokkayar. The police personnel reached the place on foot but poor visibility and rain held up rescue efforts. Personnel from a unit each of the Army and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are expected to join the operations by Sunday morning.
In Poonjar, a KSRTC bus got stuck in floodwater in front of the St Mary’s Church. Local people rescued all the passengers in the bus and shifted them to a safe place. For the first time in recorded history, Kanjirappally town lay flooded. Water entered several high range towns including Mundakkayam, Koottikkal, and Erattupetta.
By late evening, water started receding from the urban areas, and traffic was restored on arterial stretches like the NH 183 (Kottayam-Kumili), Kanjirappally-Erattupetta road, Mundakkayam-Koruthodu road, and the Kanjirappally-Manimala road.
The water-level in all major rivers across the region recorded a steady rise throughout the day. Around 220 persons were relocated to as many as 13 relief camps opened at various places in the Mundakkayam region. Cooperation Minister V N Vasavan coordinated the rescue operations at these locations.
The Erattupetta tahsildar was left stranded during the rescue operations, but was later rescued with the help of the police and the fire force. District Collector P K Jayasree declared a red alert for Kottayam and advised people to exercise caution. The authorities, meanwhile, have also issued a warning for the Pala and Kottayam towns, where the run-off water was expected to reach late on Saturday night and Sunday morning, respectively.
The water-level in all major rivers across the region recorded a steady rise throughout the day. Around 220 persons were relocated to as many as 13 relief camps opened at various places in Mundakkayam region