Police and rescue personnel evacuate residents from a flooded house after heavy rains in Kochi on Saturday. AFP
Ashraf Padanna, Correspondent
India’s meteorological department has issued a red alert in nine districts after the deep depression formed in the Arabian Sea intensified into a cyclonic storm named Tauktae. The IMD warned of heavy rain, thunderstorm, lightning and squall to intensify as the storm over the Laccadive archipelago is moving northwards off Kerala coasts.
It also caused huge damage to Kerala’s coastal areas where dozens of homes were washed away and hundreds of villagers took shelter in camps. The authorities said Kerala will receive heavy rains for two more days, though its intensity will weaken by Sunday.
Police and rescue personnel evacuate local residents from a flooded house in Kochi. AFP
"The cyclonic storm has passed Kerala shores and is moving towards (the neighbouring state of) Karnataka,” IMD-Kerala director K Santosh said. "The indications are it will gain strength and reach Gujarat coasts by Tuesday. Under its influence, Kerala is experiencing extreme climatic conditions.”
The Central Water Commission also issued a severe flood warning as rivers Achankovil and Manimala in Pathanamthitta district are overflowing. The "steady trend” is continuing and the water levels downstream are "above the danger level.”
The government, which is already battling a deadly second wave of new coronavirus, has opened several relief camps across the state for displaced people. The southern state’s chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, said his government was fully prepared to meet any eventuality arising out of the cyclonic storm. "We should exercise utmost caution in districts and adjoining areas where the IMD has issued a red and orange alert,” he said.
Police and rescue personnel evacuate a resident through a flooded street in Kochi. AFP
"The northern districts of Kannur and Kasaragod are most likely to be affected by the winds. It is important to be prepared for the dangers of strong winds.” He said necessary steps had been taken to relocate the vulnerable people in all the places. "People should be prepared to move to the safe camps as per the instructions of the disaster management authority,” he said.
"Extensive preparations have been made in the state for the cyclone. Central and state forces are ready to deal with any emergency.”
Besides the National Disaster Response Force, the army has also made deployments in affected areas. An engineering task force is also ready in Bangalore.
As the COVID-19 surge continues in the state without respite, the state has also extended a harsh lockdown that began last week to May 23.
"Strict restrictions will be required in places where the disease is not under control and the number of patients is increasing,” Vijayan told reporters.
"To bring down the severe spread of the disease, triple lockdown will be implemented in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Malappuram districts from May 16.”
He reported 34,694 new infections on Friday from 131,375 samples with a test positivity of 26.41 per cent. He also confirmed 93 more deaths taking the total COVID-19 fatalities to 6,243, though the experts say the actual numbers are much higher.
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Cyclone Tauktae — India's first major tropical storm this season — is moving northwards in parallel with the country's western coast, bringing heavy rains, thunderstorms and strong winds to several states, the meteorological department said.
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