Rescue operation in full swing as Kerala flood toll crosses 100

The flood situation in Kerala, a tiny coastal state crisscrossed by some 44 rivers in southern India, is worsening as more than 100 people have died and dozens are missing in torrential rains, flash floods, landslides and house collapses over the past one week, multiple agencies report.

Newspapers remained divided on the flood toll with one Malayalam daily claiming 92 deaths in the past two days. If that can be taken as the correct figure, the number of rain-related deaths since August 8 must have crossed 150.

Both newspapers and locals say this is the worst monsoon to hit the state in 90 years.

Indian Armed Forces are sending more helicopters with rescue teams and equipment to help people marooned atop homes or trapped in floods and mudslides. The Southern Naval Command has deployed all resources for the rescue operations (pictured – Credit: Defence dept).

The federal government has not yet declared Kerala floods national calamity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive late on Friday and conduct an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas.

According to the state government, the damage bill has already risen above $80 million.

Seven people were killed in a massive landslide in Palakkad district early on Thursday. Landslides were reported in Kozhikode district too.  In Malappuram district, nine members of a family died after their house collapsed on Wednesday in landslide.

Red alert has been declared in all 14 districts in the state as the downpour continues, all rivers are in overflowing and 35 dams, including  Mullaperiyar, opened their floodgates amid rising water levels.

The water released from these reservoirs roared down the slopes to the plains flooding canals, rivers, homes and farmlands, uprooting trees and washing away people, roads and vehicles.

The port city of Kochi in Ernakulam, and the hill districts of Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Wyanad bore the brunt of floods.

Southern Railway suspended train services from Thrissur to Ernakulam due to rising water level on the bridge across Aluva River near the station. Kochi Metro suspended operations after flood water submerged its yard in Muttom near Aluva.  Kochi international airport in Nebumbaserry will remain shut until August 20 as flood water has entered the area.

Aluva, which is not far from the airport, remains submerged as the river burst its bank and flooded embankments following continuous rains and the opening of dam shutters in Periyar River. The Shiva temple on the bank of Aluva River lay submerged with only its red roof visible.

Some 166,000 people displaced by floods in the state have been moved to 1,155 relief camps where doctors are working round the clock to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

Many flooded areas remained without power and drinking water.

As rains continued, old people, children and women were ferried in traditional wooden boats and dinghies to safety. Video footage showed families wading through water carrying whatever saved from floods.

In one video, a man refuses to leave his home even as flood water reaches the staircase. Standing neck-deep in water, he tells viewers to pray for his family.

People in low-lying areas lost everything, including important documents, as they did not get time to save them from the flood water.

According to experts, local people are partly to blame for the severity of the floods. They blame it on indiscriminate quarrying, deforestation, sand mining, conversion of paddy fields into plots to build homes, poor planning of cities, towns and villages and negligence of successive governments to look into proposals to prevent flooding.