Kerala floods: hundreds of families moved to safety as rivers rise

Death toll rises to 27 as rescuers step up search for missing in flash floods and landslides

Authorities in India's flood-hit Kerala state on Monday moved hundreds of families at risk from rising rivers as dam gates were opened to reduce dangerously high water levels.

The confirmed death toll rose to 27 with the recovery of two more bodies in Idukki, one of the districts hit hardest by landslides and flash floods triggered by heavy rain in the state since Friday. Dozens of people are still missing.

State officials said more than 900 families were shifted from low-lying areas to temporary shelters in schools and government offices, most of them from Alappuzha district.

The water level in the Pamba river, which flows into a lake in the coastal district, crossed the danger mark after the opening of the Kakki Dam on Monday morning.

“The dam has been opened in Pathanamthitta. In Alappuzha, the level of the Pamba river is rising,” S Harikishore, Director, Information and Public Relations Department, told The National.

Mr Harikishore said rain was affecting the entire state, but that districts in the south-west were worst affected, including some hilly areas that were completely cut off.

India's Meteorological Department warned of more heavy rainfall this week in parts of Kerala and adjoining states.

“Fairly widespread to widespread rainfall with isolated heavy falls likely over Kerala, Tamil Nadu during [October] 20-22, over Rayalaseema, coastal and south interior Karnataka.

"Isolated very heavy falls are also very likely over Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Karaikal on October 21 and 22”, it said.

Meanwhile, rescuers stepped up their search for people missing after landslides, flash floods and building collapses.

“The rescues at the landslide sites are still going on … we don’t know how many are still trapped or missing,” said Nikhil S, a hazard analyst with Kerala State Disaster Management.

Weather officials said the heavy rain was the result of a low pressure area that formed over the Arabian Sea and mini cloudbursts over the Western Ghats — the hill range that extends along much of India's west coast.

Kerala's Kottayam and Idukki districts received record downpours of 164.5 millimetres and 305.5mm respectively between Saturday and Sunday morning, causing flash floods in Manimala and Meenachil rivers, triggering a series of landslides.

Emergency workers were using sniffer dogs to find victims and possible survivors as military choppers assisted local authorities in relief and rescue operations.

Seasonal rains are common in the state but the severity has increased in recent years. In 2018, widespread floods triggered by heavy rainfall marooned large parts of the state and killed nearly 500 people.

Updated: November 1st 2021, 10:51 AM
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