Kerala flood death toll rises as rescuers enter worst-affected areas

Asia's Tech News Daily

© APPU S. NARAYANAN A car is stuck after flooding caused by heavy rain at Thodupuzha in India’s Kerala state. AFP

The death toll from flash floods and landslides in India’s southern state of Kerala continued to rise on Sunday with the recovery of eight bodies as heavy rains poured down for a third day.

Rescue workers recovered seven bodies in Kottayam, one of the worst-affected districts, on Sunday morning, Nikhil S, a hazard analyst with the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, told The National. Another body was found in Kokkayar in Idukki district.

Three people died in Kottayam on Saturday after their houses were washed away, while two drowned in Idukki. At least 20 people were missing across the state.

“Once missing, it is hard to find the bodies because they are trapped under mud and debris,” Mr Nikhil said.

The hilly, coastal state has been experiencing extremely heavy rainfall since Friday night due to a low pressure area over the Arabian Sea. Officials said that while the low pressure has weakened, heavy rain would continue in patches throughout Sunday.

The deluge triggered landslides and caused the Meenachal and Manimala rivers to overflow. Roads were swept away, houses damaged and trees uprooted.

Eleven teams of the National Disaster Response Force are carrying out rescue operations in south and central parts of the state.

Residents of low-lying areas along river banks were being moved to safety, while the state government asked the Indian Air Force to assist in the rescue of people cut off by landslides.

Kerala Revenue Minister K Rajan told The National that rescuers were able to safely enter Kottayam and Idukki only on Sunday and were concentrating their efforts there.

“The situation is bad in these two districts. I have not seen something like this before. Rivers are overflowing. We are planning to open the dams as the water level has reached the danger mark. We have set up rescue camps and will rehabilitate more than 2,000 people who live near the dam once we open it,” Mr Rajan said.

“Yesterday the rescue teams couldn’t even enter the districts but the rescue work started this morning. A house was destroyed in Kottayam and two people are trapped under debris. The rescue teams are unable to get them,” he said.

“At least 20 people are missing – four fishermen in Malappuram have gone missing, one has been found.”

Rain is common in the state at this time but the intensity has grown in recent years. In 2018, widespread flooding triggered by heavy rainfall affected large parts of the state and left about 500 people dead.

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