At least six people died and over a dozen were missing on Saturday as heavy rains pounded south and central Kerala causing flash floods and landslides in many parts, prompting the state government to seek the assistance of the defence forces for rescue operations. In one of the heavy rains in recent years, the high ranges of central and south Kerala are experiencing almost similar to that of the situation the state faced during the time of devastating floods of 2018 and 2019 but authorities said everything was under control and there was no need for any panic.
Several people have been injured and displaced in rain-related incidents in the southern state where dams in many districts are nearing its full capacity and small towns and villages in the hilly areas are totally cut off from the outside world.
However, the rescue teams of the state police and fire force could not reach the affected areas due to floods and adverse weather conditions prevailing there.
Weather officials said Peermade in the hill district of Idukki received 24 cm rains till 5.30 pm on Saturday.
Automatic weather stations in North Paravur reported 38mm rains, Muvattupuzha (89.5mm), Palluruthy (34 mm) and Neeleswaram in Northern Kerala district received 125.5mm rains till 8.30 pm, they said.
Kerala floods: Rescue teams on standby
Idukki district collector Sheeba George said rescue efforts were affected due to the subsequent landslips which happened in the area late in the evening. Four houses have been swept away due to the landslides.
The extent of damage could be assessed only in the morning, the collector said.
According to a defence spokesperson, Mi-17 and Sarang Helicopters are already in standby mode to meet the requirements but they could not start operations as the weather at Kottayam is still bad. Air Force assets are still at Sulur in a standby mode, she said.
“All the bases under Southern Air Command have been put on high alert in view of the prevalent weather situation at Kerala,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“The Indian Army has already deployed army personnel to the flood-affected areas. One column consisting of One Officer, 2 JCOs and 30 other ranks of army personnel already moved to Kanjirappally, Kottayam District from Pangode Military Station…,” she said.
The Southern Naval Command of the Indian Navy said it is fully ready for assisting local administration in rescue operations.
“Diving and Rescue teams are ready to be deployed at short notice. Helicopters stand-by to be launched once weather is conducive for Air Ops,”, it said in a tweet.
Kerala floods: Red alert sounded for 6 districts
According to the latest update of the India Meteorological Department, ‘Red Alert’ was sounded for six districts–Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur and Palakkad districts.
Kottayam and Pathanamthitta are the most affected districts as of now due to heavy rains since Friday night.
Visuals have emerged on social media from various parts of Kottayam district, including a KSRTC bus stuck in floodwater and locals rescuing passengers from it.
Kerala floods: Advisory issued for locals
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan chaired a high-level meeting in the evening to review the rain situation and decided to strengthen rescue operations in all affected areas. In a statement, the chief minister said all government agencies have been directed to take necessary steps to rescue people from the affected regions and evacuate those living in areas prone to landslides and floods. Vijayan also directed the district collectors to open relief camps to relocate the affected people.
- Pilgrims will not be allowed to trek to the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, situated in a dense forest in Pathanamthitta district, till October 18
- Higher educational institutions, which were scheduled to open on October 18, will start on October 20
- Locals have been advised to keep extra vigil in the next 24 hours as rains are expected to intensify
- Those residing in catchment areas should follow instructions of authorities as the water level in some rivers is expected to rise and shutters of certain dams are likely to be opened
- People should avoid visiting tourist places, or venturing near rivers and other water bodies
- People living in low-lying and other disaster-prone areas and on the banks of rivers are advised to move to safer places
- Fishing boats have been prohibited from venturing into the sea