Kerala rain death toll touches 23; floods force Kochi airport closure till Sunday - GulfToday

Video: Kerala rain death toll touches 23; floods force Kochi airport closure till Sunday

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Members of a rescue team row a boat towards a submerged temple to look for a man believed to be stranded inside the temple during heavy rains on the outskirts of Kochi. Sivaram V/ Reuters

Incessant rain in Kerala have claimed 23 lives in the past two days. Over 22,000 people have been shifted to some 315 relief camps across the state, officials said.

Till late on Thursday the toll was eight, but a fresh count took the numbers to 23 on Friday. The worst affected districts include Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur, Wayanad, Kasargode and Idukki and the deaths have also been reported from these areas.

Flooding also forced authorities to halt all operations from the Kochi International Airport, the busiest airport in Kerala. The airport, located along the banks of the Periyar river, would be shut until at least 1500 IST (0930 GMT) on Sunday, officials said.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Twitter the landslide in the hilly district of Munnar was major. He said authorities were exploring all possible rescue methods.

Kochi-Airport750 Airplanes are pictured as they are parked next to flood waters on the tarmac of the international airport in Kochi. AFP

There has been 260mm of rain in Wayanad — the parliamentary constituency of former Congress President Rahul Gandhi. A huge landslide has marooned around 2,000 people in Meppadi in the district.

A temple, mosque and estate workers quarters have collapsed in the area. It's from this area that four bodies have been recovered from under the debris.

With the area still cut off, Gandhi has urged for help from the Centre. Authorities are trying their best to get the Air Force to begin rescue operations.

All schools, colleges and other educational institutions were shut in all the 14 districts on Friday keeping in mind the devastating rain and flood that had hit the state in a century last year.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Twitter the landslide in the hilly district of Munnar was major. He said authorities were exploring all possible rescue methods.

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Members of a rescue team wade through a water-logged area during heavy rains on the outskirts of Kochi in Kerala, India on Thursday.

“All arrangements have been put in place to deal with the disaster,” Vijayan said.

Indian media reported that at least two people were killed in the landslide, at least 70 houses were destroyed and that dozens more were still feared trapped. There were also reports that at least 20 people were killed due to the rains in Kerala in the past two days.

Kerala was hit by devastating floods last August that killed more than 200 people and affected more than 5 million. Those floods, dubbed the worst to hit the state in nearly a century, caused billions of dollars of damage to fields, homes and other infrastructure.

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Flood-affected people are evacuated to a safer place after heavy rains in Kolhapur in Maharashtra on Thursday. Abhijeet Gurjar/ Reuters

Seasonal monsoon rains from June to September cause deaths and mass displacement across South Asia every year but they also deliver more than 70% of India’s rainfall and are crucial for farm output and economic growth.

Heavy rains have also caused flooding and devastation in the western states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka this week.

According to officials, at least 35 people were killed in the three states this week due to the rains and more than 200,000 have been evacuated.

Hundreds of villages and a few towns in the affected areas of Maharashtra do not have electricity and drinking water, a state government official said on Friday, and authorities are trying to restore electricity in some areas.

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The Disaster Response Force personnel rescue people stranded in flood waters on inflatable boats in Maharashtra. AFP

Fuel was also scarce because some districts had been cut off from the rest of the state, the official said.

Schools and colleges in many parts of western and southern India have been shut since Monday and are unlikely to open this week, authorities have said.

Milk and vegetable supplies to India’s financial hub, Mumbai, dropped significantly on Friday because many of the affected districts in Maharashtra that have been cut off are major suppliers.

Reuters / Indo-Asian News Service