At least five people have died in two separate incidents triggered by extremely heavy rainfall in central and southern districts of Kerala on Saturday. The India Meteorological Department has issued red alert in six districts of the state. The rainfall was the result of a low-pressure area formed in the Arabian Sea.
Remains of three persons, who had gone missing, after a major landslide in Plappally in Kootickal panchayat of Kottayam district were retrieved from under the debris. The deceased were identified as Claramma Joseph (65), Sini (35) and Sona (10). Three families, who lived in the area, have been reported as missing after huge debris of mud and boulders swept their houses away. Efforts to find the missing are underway.
The Southern Naval Command said in a statement that the state disaster management authority has sought its assistance in airlifting of marooned families at Kootickal.
“The diving and rescue teams are ready to be deployed at short notices. In addition, helicopters are also ready to be deployed once weather is conducive for air operations,” it said.
In another incident, two people were killed after the car in which they were travelling was swept away by rising floodwaters near Moonunkavayal on the Kanjar-Manappadi road in Idukki district. The deceased were identified as Nikhil Unnikrishnan (30) and Nima K Vijayan (31). Their bodies were retrieved from the car in a joint operation by locals, police and the fire and rescue force.
Several people have also been reported missing after a landslide in Poovanchi in Kokkayar panchayat in Idukki district. There are reports that four houses have been swept away in the landslide and 8 members of the two households are missing. The region is on the border of Kottayam and Idukki districts in central Kerala.
Teams of the fire and rescue force as well as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have begun efforts to trace those missing.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, at a meeting convened to take stock of the rain-related incidents, said the situation in the state was ‘serious’ and that the government would do everything possible to rescue persons affected by landslides, mudslips and floods.
“The government will strengthen rescue measures in all regions where rains continue to be heavy. Relief camps are being set up in all places to take in those affected by floods and landslides. Officials should take special care to ensure that the camps operate by Covid protocols, stock essential medicines and house those unvaccinated and with underlying medical complications,” the CM said in a Facebook post.
District Collectors have been directed to make use of the state disaster response funds and officials have been told to monitor the water levels in dams and reservoirs and issue adequate warnings to people living near rivers, the CM said.
Colleges and higher education institutes, slated to reopen on October 18 after the Covid-19 induced second lockdown, will now open on October 20. The Sabarimala pilgrimage has been suspended till October 19, Vijayan added.
The rains, unusual in Kerala this time of the year and attributed by experts as the consequence of global climate change, have wreaked havoc in the state over the weekend, flooding major towns and villages, suspending movement of people on key arterial roads in central districts and pushing authorities to lift sluice gates of key dams and reservoirs to release excess water. Several rivers like Chalakudy, Pampa and Achankovil have swelled, inundating large tracts of agricultural fields and damaging houses.
Several regions in Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts have reported flooding similar to 2018 when Kerala was inundated by heaviest rainfall in a century. Former Poonjar MLA PC George, whose home came under floodwaters on Saturday, said he had never seen such a catastrophic flood.
Six districts — Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur and Palakkad — are on red alert, indicating ‘extremely heavy’ rainfall and six others — Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Kollam, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad — are on orange alert, indicating ‘isolated heavy to very heavy’ rainfall by the IMD.