25 killed, Kochi airport closed, schools shut as heavy rains lash Kerala

Heavy rains continue to pound Kerala and the death toll has gone up to 25 with many reported missing as water-logging forced the closure of Kochi international airport till Sunday. All educational institutes have been ordered shut for today and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sought Army and Air Force help as weathermen predicted more rains in the next two days.

Past few days have recorded heavy rainfall with Wayanad being the worst-hit where many areas still remain cut off with roads caving in and several people are feared trapped in a massive landslide in Meppady. Seven deaths were reported on Friday- four in Wayanad, two in Idukki and one is Malappuram.

In view of heavy rains, authorities have advised tourists to avoid Wayanad and Idukki districts till Aug 15. “Some areas like Nilambur, Iritty, Kottiyur and hill destination Munnar received 18-20 cms rainfall in last 24 hours”, the Met office said.

 

Of the 44 rivers in the state more than half are in spate and many dams are filled to the brim, said revenue officials. More than 20,000 people have been evacuated to safer places as overflowing rivers and swollen dams flooded several districts amid heavy rains, they said.

Kerala’s Disaster Management Authority has issued red alert in Idukki, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad districts for two more days. A red alert means the notified area will receive very heavy to extremely heavy rainfall. The Yellow alert will remain in six other districts, the regional metrological centre said.

This spell of intense rain comes almost a year after floods devastated the state killing more than 450 people and caused damages worth hundreds of crores. Millions were affected with floods causing severe damage to agriculture, homes and other infrastructure. Last year, situation was aggravated after authorities released water from many dams simultaneouslyin mid-August.

More than 1 million people were shifted to relief camps last year as authorities declared red alert in 13 out of 14 districts. It was a Level 3 disaster that corresponds to a nearly catastrophic situation or a large-scale disaster that overwhelms district and state authorities. The state government had imposed one per cent cess last week to rebuild the flood-hit infrastructure.

Despite the incessant rains in the past couple of days, the state is still rain deficit-- this year’s rainfall till August 8 is 1147.4 mm and normal fall during this period is 1497. 1 mm but weathermen said going by the current spell it will be more than normal as the monsoon season draws to close.

“Monsoon is a four-month season. In Kerala July-August period gets maximum rains. But these days some particular days get heavy rainfall due to some external reasons. So we can’t say monsoon pattern in changing completely,” said IMD regionl centre director K Santosh.