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Kerala experiencing a catastrophe of a lifetime; over 300 dead in floods

Kerala experiencing a catastrophe of a lifetime; over 300 dead in floods
Houses and roads submerged water following heavy rain and landslides in Kerala.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, AUG 17 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 8/17/2018 11:36:11 AM IST

Kerala’s most savage monsoon in a century has killed 324 people over the last nine days, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said, issuing a fresh rain alert for the battered state. 

Nearly 2 lakh people have been displaced. The state, battling floods and landslides, plunged deeper into crisis today, with hospitals facing shortage of oxygen and fuel stations running dry. Vijayan told the media that the situation arising out of unprecedented floods and subsequent havoc caused by turgid rivers and gushing waters in Kerala continues to be “grave”.

Since August 8 when the rains began pounding the southern state, around 2.40 lakh persons have been lodged in 1,568 relief camps across Kerala.

Hundreds of defence personnel, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams, helped by more than 20 helicopters, mounted search and rescue operations. Fishermen along with their motorboats too joined the humanitarian efforts.

More helicopters were pressed into service on Friday to fly sorties for rescue and relief. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman sanctioned the extra choppers, as people marooned in Chengannur and Chalakudy could only be airlifted to safety. Waters from the Periyar river and its tributaries kept many towns in Ernakulam and Thrissur districts submerged. The worst affected include Paravur, Kalady, Chalakudy, Perumbavoor and Muvatupuzha.

Thousands of people are still perched on high-rise buildings waiting to be rescued and taken to relief camps. Over 50,000 people are lodged in the Ernakulam and Thrissur camps alone.

Intensity of rains, however, decreased in several districts since Friday morning, leading to decrease in water level in three big dams in Idukki district. The red alert in Kasargode and Thiruvananthapuram districts was withdrawn on Friday though the warning continued in other 12 districts in Kerala. “The only good news is that intensity of rains has come down in certain areas. We plan to rescue all those awaiting help, preferably by the day’s end,” Vijayan said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the flood situation with Vijayan over phone and told about his impending visit to the state in the evening. He will take an aerial survey of the affected areas on Saturday.

As of Friday, 16 teams of the Army, 28 of Coast Guard, 39 of NDRF and 42 of Navy were engaged in rescue operations. Fourteen more National Disaster Response Force teams will reach Kerala during the day, said Vijayan.

“One big problem that rescue teams are facing is that some people are unwilling to move to the relief camps. This is not good for their safety,” the Chief Minister added.

Idukki’s senior revenue official M.P. Vinod said that with lesser rains, water level in various dams in Idukki had come down.

Helicopters loaded with food packets took off from the state capital and dropped these in central districts.

Authorities in worst-affected districts took help of big lorries to navigate flooded roads to reach those marooned in small pockets.

The MeT office forecast lesser rains in Kerala till Saturday, which should bring some relief to the embattled authorities.

Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) authorities have said that the airport will not be operational till August 26.

“Kochi airport operation is temporarily suspended up to 1400 hrs on 26.8.2018 due to very high flood situation and key essential facilities like runway, taxiway, apron. nav aids are under submerged condition,” a statement by the CIAL PRO said.

Visuals showed the airport completely submerged in water, and the aeroplanes stationed can be seen in several feet of water. An aerial view showed the level of inundation not just of the airport but also its surrounding areas.

Railway services between Ernakulam and Thrissur remained suspended even as long- distance trains were diverted via Nagercoil route.

Kerala is facing the heaviest rains and consequent floods and destruction since 1924, which the state estimates has caused a loss of Rs 8,000 crore.

 

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