by Elton Gomes
As Kerala battles with heavy rains for the second consecutive day on Friday, many parts in the state are in crisis as unceasing heavy rain has worsened conditions. After four persons were reported dead, the death toll climbed to 26 as on Friday.
Rescue teams including the military and NDRF personnel searched through soil and rubble looking for survivord of landslips, and authorities began evacuating families as rivers began to swell. In Kozhikode, the Kakkayam dam site was off limits after the approach road got washed away in the floods.
Idukki district was put on high alert after several landslips occurred. Significant crop damage was reported in Idukki as storm water flooded the fields. Idukki’s district collector has imposed a ban on heavy goods vehicles and tourism activities in the district till further notice. Landslips were noticed in many places in Wayanad and Malappuram too.
News agency PTI reported that five columns of the Army have been deployed in Kerala’s northern districts since last night. Small bridges have been constructed so that stranded people in Kozhikode and Wayanad can be evacuated. The Indian Navy has put its Southern Naval Command on alert due to the rising water level in Periyar river and potential flooding conditions in Wellingdon Island. A defence spokesperson stated that the Navy is prepared to meet any situation arising out of possible inundation of the island.
As per the PTI report, for the first time since the past 26 years, a shutter of the Cheruthoni Dam was opened on Thursday, while two more shutters were opened on Friday morning. A total of 241 relief camps have been opened, and roughly 15,695 people have been shifted to low-lying areas. A red alert has been sounded in Wayanad district, where more than 5,500 people have been shifted to relief camps.
The government has urged tourists to not visit high range areas and dam sites. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan described the current flood situation as “very grim.” It was for the first time in Kerala’s history that 24 dams had been opened at once after the water level reached maximum capacity, according to PTI.
Idukki received a total of 129.80 mm rainfall. As water levels have reached the almost maximum mark, shutters of at least 22 dams have been opened to drain out water.
All Idukki Dam gates opened for first time
For the first time in 26 years, all five gates of the Idukki Dam were opened, emphasizing the seriousness of the conditions in Kerala. The dam is currently sending approximately 6 lakh litres of water down the Periyar river each second. The Idukki reservoir is 2403 feet deep, but unrelenting rain over the catchment area has compelled authorities to open the reservoir’s gates one by one.
On Friday afternoon, the water level at the Idukki reservoir stood at 2,401.5 feet, just short of its maximum capacity. Opening of all the dam’s gates are heightening fears of extreme flooding along the banks of the already swelling Periyar river.
Kerala’s disaster management authority has announced a red alert for extremely heavy rainfall in Wayanad district till August 14. Torrential rains could continue in Idukki till August 13, while Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Palakkad, Malappuram, and Kozhikode are on high alert till August 11. More than 10,000 people living along the along the banks of the Periyar river have been shifted to safer places. Schools and offices in Kochi city and Ernakulam district have been shut.
“I never witnessed such water levels in my life. Thanks to preparedness, human casualties was restricted to an extent. But at the same time, we have to take a lesson from such disasters. We have to check river and forest encroachment in a big way,” said Kannan Nair, a resident of Aluva who was shifted to a relief camp, Hindustan Times reported.
Tourists stranded in Munnar
A total of 54 tourists, including 22 foreigners, who were stranded at a private resort in Munnar, were rescued on Friday. Roads leading to the resort were blocked due to landslides as rain battered most parts of Kerala. The army was called in to save tourists from the Plum Judy resort.
Kerala’s tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran told news agency PTI that all the tourists from Plum Judy resort in Munnar are safe. Surendran also spoke to some of the affected people and assured them of all the help. “The tourists will be shifted to Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) hotels once the road is cleared,” Kerala tourism director P. Bala Kiran said, as reported by Hindustan Times.
The United States consulate in Chennai had raised a travel alert and had advised US citizens against visiting areas affected by landslides and flashfloods. ”A team of revenue officials and the army is working vigorously to clear the road and get to the tourists who are stranded… Basic amenities are being provided to them. The sub-collector has gotten in touch with some of the embassies too,” Idukki district collector Jeevan Kumar told NDTV.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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