Kerala Floods: Death toll mounts to 15 as heavy rain lashes states, devotees asked to not visit Sabarimala Temple

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Updated: October 17, 2021 1:29 PM

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.

"Till now, we have found the bodies of 11 people. One person is still missing. The search by Navy and NDRF will continue," Idukki district Collector Sheeba George told PTI."Till now, we have found the bodies of 11 people. One person is still missing. The search by Navy and NDRF will continue," Idukki district Collector Sheeba George told PTI.

The death toll from heavy rains and catastrophic landslide in Kerala rose to 15 on Sunday with hard-hit areas of Kottayam and Idukki districts reeling from the devastation, prompting the state government to seek the assistance of the defence forces for rescue operations. Lord Ayyappa devotees have been asked to avoid visiting Sabarimala Temple today and tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the defence forces and NDRF teams continued with the rescue operations on Sunday morning. Personnel of the Army, Airforce and the Navy were in Koottickal and Peruvanthanam — the two hilly villages falling under Kottayam and Idukki districts respectively–where an overflowing river swept through houses, displacing and isolating many.

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.

In a separate rain related incident, a man and a woman–both 30-years-old– died as their car was swept away in the flood waters in Kanjar in Idukki district, police said. Their bodies have been recovered, they said. Talking to PTI tonight, Idukki district collector Sheeba George said eight persons are reported missing in the landslip accompanied by heavy rains at Kokkayar in the district.

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.

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.

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. He said the camps should function strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocol.

In the wake of warning that the rains would continue till October 19, the meeting also decided not to allow pilgrims to trek to the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, situated in a dense forest in Pathanamthitta district, till October 18. The temple was opened at 5pm today for ‘Thula masam’ poojas.

Higher educational institutions, which were scheduled to open on October 18, will start on October 20, the statement said.

Appealing to the people of the state to keep extra vigil in the next 24 hours, the CM said in a Facebook post that the rains have already hit the south and central districts and it would intensify in the northern districts also by the evening as per the weather forecast.

The water level in some rivers is expected to rise and shutters of certain dams are likely to be opened, he said, adding that those living in its catchment areas should be ready to follow the instructions of authorities. The CM also said a Red alert has been sounded for the dams under KSEB, including Kakki dam in Pathanamthitta, Sholayar in Thrissur, Kundala and Kallarkutti in Idukki.

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