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Kerala rains: IMD issues red alert in eight districts as toll rises to 54; Kochi airport to remain shut till Saturday

The India Meteorological Department has sounded a red alert to several districts of Kerala after rains intensified on Wednesday, taking the toll to 54.

According to ANI, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Kannur, Kasargode, Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki and Ernakulam districts are expected to receive heavy to very heavy rainfall till Thursday. Kochi's Nedumbaserry airport will remain closed till Saturday or until the situation improves, as runways at the international terminal have flooded, airport authorities said. Flights are being diverted to other airports as the state has been battered by torrential rains since 8 August.

Calling the development "unprecedented", Kochi airport director ACK Nair told IANS, "Why we decided to take this step is because since last night, dams like Idukki, Mullaperiyar and Idamalayar have opened their shutters. The water released by these dams reaches the Periyar river, and one of its tributaries that is overflowing flows close to the airport, sending the waters to our operational area."

The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), which decided to suspend arrival operations from 4 am to 7 am on Wednesday as a precautionary measure, had earlier said the airport would be shut till 2 pm. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted about this saying, "CIAL is working hard to drain out the stormwater". Vijayan also chaired an emergency with the state officials to review the situation in the state, Times Now report. 

Kerala-based journalist TK Devasia said heavy rains since Tuesday have brought the flood situation back to the state. The five sluice gates of Cheruthoni dam, part of the Idukki reservoir, are being raised again following heavy inflow of water from the Mullapperiyar dam which has necessitated the evacuation of people on the banks of Periyar river.

Two shutters, which had been closed on Monday, were opened on Tuesday evening as the water level rose. The rising level at the Mullaperiyar dam, which touched 136.10 feet against its maximum level of 142 feet, was still a matter of concern, official sources said.

A landslide between Kuzhithurai and Eraniel stations has delayed four trains - Guruvayur-Chennai Egmore express, Kanyakumari-Mumbai CSMT express,  Dibugarh-Kanyakumari Vivek Express and Gandhidham-Tirunelveli Humsafar Express, railway sources said.

A few passenger trains have been partially hit and rail traffic on Kollam-Punalur-Sengottai section has been suspended due to adverse weather conditions. On Thiruvananhtapuram-Thrissur section, trains will be delayed due to speed restrictions due to rise in water levels in rivers and lakes. The engineering department is continuously monitoring the safety of bridges, railways said.

 Kerala rains: IMD issues red alert in eight districts as toll rises to 54; Kochi airport to remain shut till Saturday

An aeriel view of the floods in Aluva after heavy rains, in Kerala. PTI

Weathermen have warned of heavy rains and gusty winds, with speeds reaching 60 kilometres per hour in all 14 districts. With almost all rivers in spate, reports of landslides have come in from Malappuram and Munnar in Idukki on Wednesday morning.

A defence spokesperson said the Southern Naval Command has diverted its vessel INS Kalpeni 12 nautical miles off the Alappuzha coast to rescue the crew of a fishing boat reportedly in danger after water entered it. "A helicopter is also being launched for search and rescue, weather permitting," he said.

Over 1,000 people living on the banks of the Periyar river have been shifted to relief camps as a precautionary measure after the Mullaperiyar dam's shutters were opened and water released through spillway early on Wednesday morning. Though 13 shutters of the dam were initially opened by 4.30 am, three were closed and discharge through the spillway reduced to 3,480 cusecs.

On Tuesday, one man was killed and two others were injured in Thrissur district after an uprooted tree fell on them following heavy rains and strong winds.  In the high-range Idukki district, an 85-year-old woman was killed in Elakkal and a 52-year-old woman died in Keerithode when mounds of earth fell on their homes. A man from Tamil Nadu was killed last evening when earth fell on a hotel he was working in Munnar while six other employees were rescued. In a similar incident, a couple and their six-year-old son were killed when earth fell on their house at Kondotty in Malappuram district early on Wednesday. A fisherman was electrocuted in Thrissur after he came in contact with a live electric wire.

Unabated rains forced the government to do away with the official 'Onam' celebrations and the amount set aside for the purpose would be utilised for relief operations, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.

A Cabinet meeting on Tuesday allotted Rs 1,000 crore for repairing public roads destroyed in rains across the state. Besides, Rs 200 crore was set apart for repairing roads in the Sabarimala region as well.

According to authorities, over 215 landslides were reported in the rain-battered state, where 444 villages were declared flood-hit by the state government. At least 20,000 houses were fully destroyed in the deluge and about 30,000 persons had taken shelter in relief camps. Rains and landslides had destroyed 10,000 km of roads in the state, Vijayan said.

Meanwhile, the Travancore Devaswom Board has asked the devotees to avoid their pilgrimage to Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district to participate in the Niraputhari as water level in Pamba River was rising steadily.

With inputs from agencies and TK Devasia

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Updated Date: Aug 15, 2018 17:21:58 IST