Chennai/Thiruvananthapuram/Bengaluru: Rains continued to batter South India on Friday, with landslips and floods throwing life out of gear in Kerala leaving 22 people dead over the past three days and authorities scrambling to evacuate people from low-lying areas.
Over 80,000 flood-affected people were evacuated in Karnataka, as Tamil Nadu asked the IAF to be on stand by to be deployed for rescue activities in rain-ravaged Nilgiris district where five people lost their lives in various rain-related incidents.
In New Delhi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who represents the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat from Kerala, spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the floods and sought aid. A year after Kerala was devastated by the deadliest monsoon that led to the worst deluge in the state’s history in a century, it was again at the receiving end of nature’s fury, prompting the government to seek the help of Army and Air Force.
Rail and air services were disrupted with Railways cancelling several services while flight operations at the Kochi airport were suspended till Sunday due to inundation.
The Cochin International Airport (CIAL), where flight operations were initially suspended till midnight Friday after floodwaters inundated the apron area (parking), will now remain closed till 3 PM on Sunday. A red alert for rainfall has been issued in nine of the 14 districts in the state and all educational institutions will remain closed.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who chaired a high-level meeting here on Friday to review the situation, said 22 people have died in rain-related incidents in the last three days. Landslips and mudslides have been reported from 24 places, he added.
“At Mepaddi in Wayanad, which witnessed the biggest landslip on Thursday evening, the area between two hills was completely washed away,” he told reporters.
Defence sources said the landslip in Meppadi has destroyed houses in Puthumala and nearly 150 people were trapped and have to be rescued.
In Kochi, the Southern Naval Command said it was ready to open its airport for operation of small commercial flights if CIAL airport remained shut for a longer period.
The government has suspended the iconic Snake Boat Race which was scheduled to be held in Alappuzha on Friday in the wake of heavy rains. Last year also, the race was suspended due to floods then, that claimed over 400 lives and caused extensive damage.
Meanwhile, in New Delhi, Gandhi spoke to Modi on the flood situation in Kerala and sought assistance for those affected in the state, including in Wayanad.
“Spoke to Prime Minister seeking all possible assistance for the people severely affected by floods and landslides in the state, especially in Wayanad. The PM has assured to provide any assistance required to mitigate effects of the disaster,” he tweeted from his Wayanad MP twitter handle.
As per official updates on Friday, 22,165 people have been shifted to 315 relief camps across the state. Examinations of the Kerala Public Service Commission and various universities across the state, scheduled for Saturday, have been postponed, officials said.
In neighbouring Karnataka, four members of a family were killed in a landslip in Kodagu district on Friday following incessant rains.
“Four bodies – three men and one women – have been recovered from the spot, while efforts are on to trace a fifth member of the family,” a police official said. Life in Kodagu has come to a standstill following pounding rains in the past few days.
Meanwhile, authorities have evacuated 80,000 more people from rain-affected areas in the state.
Joint rescue teams comprising personnel from the Fire and Emergency Department, State Disaster Response Force, National Disaster Response Force and Army have evacuated 1,24,291 people, an official statement said on Friday.
Nine additional NDRF teams have been airlifted for rescue operations including five to Belagavi and two to Kodagu, it added.
Two Indian Air Force helicopters have been deployed for rescue operations.One more helicopter will be deployed in Raichur, it said. The floods and rains have left a trail of destruction in vast areas of north, coastal and Malnad districts of the state.
Other affected districts include Bagalkot, Vijayapura, Raichur, Yadgiri, Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, Shivamogga, Kodagu and Chikkamagalur.
“As on 8 am today (Friday), 3.91 lakh cusecs (of water) is reaching Belagavi border from Maharashtra,” the statement said.
Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa said he was in constant touch with the Centre and Modi, Home minister Amit Shah and Defence minister Rajnath Singh have been briefed on the rescue and relief efforts.
In Tamil Nadu, rains continued to pound Nilgiris and Coimbatore districts. The state government asked the Sulur IAF station in Coimbatore to be on stand by for possible deployment for resecue activities.
The toll in rain-related incidents in the hilly Nilgiris district rose to five on Friday. A woman and her daughter died when the wall of their house collapsed while bodies of of two women estate workers were recovered from a blocked drain at Kuruthukuli Friday. A 65-year-old man had died in a wall collapse on Thursday
Avalanche — a major tourist destination — recorded 820 mm rain in the 24-hour period till Thursday morning and 2,136 mm in the last 72 hours, claimed to be the highest in South India.
It recorded 911 mm rainfall in the 24-hour period ending 8.30 am on Friday, the weather department said.
Chief Minister K. Palaniswami announced a relief of Rs 10 lakh each to the families of the victims.
Further, 1704 people affected due to floods and landslips have been lodged in 28 relief centres.
In Andhra Pradesh, 31 members belonging to the fishing community, including 12 women, who were trapped in the raging Godavari river at Polavaram were rescued by the Navy.
A Navy helicopter, which was deployed from Visakhapatnam for a rescue operation, airlifted the stranded fisherfolk to Dowaleswaram in two sorties, State Disaster Management Authority said.