India

Kerala floods: 29 dead, 54,000 homeless; Army steps up operations

US asks its citizens to avoid visiting areas affected by landslides and flash floods.

Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi/New Delhi: Dams and rivers overflowed, sections of highways collapsed and homes were swept away in severe flooding in more than half of Kerala, after days of incessant rains left nearly 54,000 people homeless and killed at least 29, officials said on Friday.

Almost all 40-odd rivers in the state are in spate, officials said. Northern and Central Kerala have been battered by heavy rains of the South-West monsoon since August 8, which has left 29 people dead, including three on Friday.

A total of 53,501 people are now housed in 439 relief camps across the state. Meanwhile, 54 tourists, including 22 foreigners, who were stranded at a private resort in Munnar in Kerala’s Idukki district, have been rescued. The army was called in to help the tourists get out of Plum Judy resort.

On Thursday, the US consulate in Chennai had issued a travel alert and advised the US citizens to avoid visiting areas affected by landslides and flash floods. Cochin International Airport Limited sources said operations at the airport had not been affected.

CM Pinarayi Vijayan has cancelled all public programmes scheduled to be held between now and April 12. On Friday, he reviewed the progress of disaster management efforts. Congress MP KC Venugopal brought up the floods in Kerala in the Lok Sabha. Union home minister Rajnath Singh has promised CM Vijayan all possible central assistance.

Cheruthoni dam opens all sluices, town evacuated

The Cheruthoni dam, one of the three in the Idukki reservoir, has opened all five sluices. The reservoir has a maximum depth of 2,403 feet, and at noon, the water level had reached 2401.50 feet. People have been evacuated from Cheruthoni town.

A bridge in the town was almost flooded. A red alert was issued for Idukki and its adjoining districts in view of the possibility of release of more water from the Idukki reservoir.

Loss of Rs 342 crore

The June-September rain has damaged crops worth Rs 342 crore across 66,284 acres since their onset on May 29, an official at the Kerala state disaster management authority said.

Bridge masked to stop selfie enthusiasts

Traffic was blocked after selfie enthusiasts thronged both sides of a bridge in Aluva. When the crowd failed to disperse after the traffic police’s repeated appeals, they masked the bridge with curtains. After the police masked the bridge, the crowd dispersed.

8 Army columns deployed in state

Eight Army columns including 2 from Bengaluru and 1 from Hyderabad have been deployed in different parts of Kerala. Two columns, including a Defence Service Corps column, are in Idukki. The Army and the Air Force are carrying out rescue operations in affected areas in coordination with the National Disaster Response Force.

‘Biggest disaster’

Union minister KJ Alphons, who is from Kerala, called the ongoing crisis ‘the biggest disaster that has hit the state’. AK Antony, a former chief minister, said the ‘entire’ state was in danger.

Hill tourism banned

To prevent any unfortunate accident due to heavy rain,the tourism department of the state has banned hill tourism after landslides were reported in the high ranges. The forest department also closed the roads leading to the famous Athirapilly waterfall in Thrissur district, after the Charpa waterfall flooded the Anamala road.

(With inputs from agencies)

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