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Heavy rains in Kerala: Red alert in 10 districts, 6 deaths, thousands relocated to camps

Thiruvananthapuram,  A red alert was declared by the IMD in 10 districts of Kerala where incessant rains on Tuesday caused six deaths, landslides, rise in water levels and relocation of thousands to relief camps in various parts of the state.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a red alert in all the districts of the state barring Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Kasaragod, for August 2 and 3 and has predicted heavy rainfall in the state till August 5.

The heavy rains led to six deaths — one each in Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam and Ernakulam districts and three in Kannur district — resulting in a total of 12 rain-related casualties in the state from July 31 till date, the Kerala State Emergency Operations Center (KSEOC) said.

Besides that, three people have also gone missing from various parts of the state during the day, it said.

In view of the heavy rainfall and anticipating landslides, flash floods and other disasters, the state government opened 95 relief camps across Kerala where 2,291 people have been relocated, KSEOC said.

The heavy rainfall also damaged 126 houses between July 31 till date and of those 27 homes were completely destroyed, it said.

In view of the red alerts issued by the IMD and the possibility of extremely heavy rainfall in the state in the next few days, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the warning of very heavy rains in the state in the days ahead should be taken very seriously as continuous rainfall of more than 200 mm is likely to create a crisis.

There is a need for vigilance and preparedness in the state in anticipation of natural disasters like landslides, mountain floods, flash floods, and waterlogging in cities and low-lying areas, the CM said in a Facebook post.

Vijayan also said that the Central Water Commission has issued a warning regarding the water levels of various rivers, like Pampa, Manimala and Neyyar, crossing the danger marks at several places.

He said the commission has also warned that water levels of rivers like Achankovil, Kaliyar, Thodupuzha and Meenachil are on the rise and therefore, people living on the banks of all these rivers should be cautious and steps are being taken to relocate them to safer locations.

He has requested everyone not to be reluctant to relocate and to follow the instructions of the authorities. The CM also directed that the camps should adhere to COVID-19 norms and there should be special facilities for pregnant women, lactating mothers and persons with special needs.

He further said, in the post, that the KSEOC was functioning as the state-level control room with representatives of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Rescue Forces and other departments concerned and control rooms have also been set up in all districts and taluks.

Besides that, nine NDRF teams have been deployed in the state apart from the two units of the Defence Security Corps stationed in Kannur and Palakkad districts and one column of the Army in Thiruvananthapuram district, he said.

As there is a possibility of strong winds along with rain, steps should be taken on a war footing to secure electric lines, posts, trees and hoardings to avoid accidents due to their collapse, he said and added that earthmovers and other machinery should be kept ready in advance in disaster-prone areas to deal with landslides and flash floods in hilly areas.

Restricting travel to hilly areas and on water bodies, avoiding night time travel and advising fishermen not to go out to sea in view of possibility of strong winds and huge waves, were some of the other directions the state government has issued, the CM said.

The CPI(M) state secretariat, in a release, said it has asked all its workers to be part of the relief and rescue work in the state.

The Pathanamthitta Collector has been tasked with taking appropriate steps to ensure that the functions related to the Niraputhari festival, which marks the beginning of the harvest season, and Aranmula Vallasadhya at Sabarimala are not disrupted, a release said.

Data on the daily water-levels of the dams operated by KSEB (Kerala State Electricity Board) indicate that water-levels in five Idukki dams — Ponmudi, Kundala, Kallarkutty, Erattayar and Lower Periyar — as well as the Moozhiyar and Poringalkuthu dams in Pathanamthitta and Thrissur, respectively, have reached the red alert storage levels. Two Irrigation department reservoirs in Palakkad — Meenkara and Mangalam — reached Orange alert storage levels on Tuesday due to the heavy rains, according to the data on the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) website. The Ernakulam district officials also said that an emergency action committee comprising local bodies will be formed to take steps to prevent waterlogging in Kochi city and supervise rescue and evacuation operations.

Meanwhile, the Indian Coast Guard also stepped into help with search and rescue operations.

A red alert indicates heavy to extremely heavy rains of over 20 cm in 24 hours, while orange alert means very heavy rains from 6 cm to 20 cm of rain. A yellow alert means heavy rainfall between 6 and 11 cm. PTI