The death toll in Kerala climbed to 174, officials said on Friday, as the situation triggered by the state’s worst floods in a century remained grave leaving thousands homeless, destroying crops, and disrupting air, rail and road traffic for a week.
Officials said four people have died in Thrissur and three bodies were recovered in Pathanamthitta, which are yet to be identified. Seven went missing after a parish hall collapsed in north Paravur trapping several others, they added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reach Kerala later in the day and start an aerial survey of the state on Saturday morning. “Had telephone conversation with Kerala chief minister P Vijayan just now.We discussed the flood situation across the state and reviewed rescue operations. Later this evening, I’ll be heading to Kerala to take stock of the unfortunate situation due to flooding,” Modi tweeted.
The red alert has been withdrawn from two districts of Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargode out of the 14, according to officials. The weather department has forecast less rain in the next 24 hours till Saturday, which should bring some relief.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the situation was serious but was optimistic of overcoming as most of the state remained under water amid continuous rain, landslides and floods. Vijayan said over two lakh people have been shifted to 1,568 camps across the state but many are still stranded.
“All marooned people will be saved by this evening. I am confident we can achieve this. The Centre is responding well,” Vijayan said at a press conference.
“Sixteen army teams, 28 navy teams, 39 NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) teams are involved in the relief and rescue operations. NDRF has so far rescued 4,000 people,” he said.
The chief minister also sought to allay fears after rumours that the century-old Mullaperiyar dam had developed cracks and warned action against rumour mongers.
“There is no threat to any dam,” he said.
The relief and rescue teams of the Indian Air Force and Indian Army on Friday started distributing food packets among those who have been marooned in several flood-hit areas of the state as more boats and helicopters were pressed into service. The Indian Coast Guard is involved in rescue operations in 28 places in the state.
The famous hill station of Munnar, which received 127mm of rainfall on Thursday night, remained cut off even as the army’s help was sought to restore the communication network. Many towns like Cheruthoni, Chalakudy and Pandalam are also underwater as reports said many people were still trapped there.
Rains have subsided in Idukki and Wayanad but the water level in the Periyar is rising. Waters from the Periyar river and its tributaries kept many towns in Ernakulam and Thrissur submerged. The worst affected include Paravur, Kalady, Chalakudy, Perumbavoor and Muvatupuzha.
Waters in Idukki and Wayanad areas and certain areas of Pathanamthitta have receded.
The airport in the main commercial city of Kochi has been flooded and operations suspended until August 26 with flights being diverted to two other airports in the state and more than 25 trains were cancelled or rescheduled.
Railways will soon run special flood relief trains with the army’s help to reach food to marooned people, a spokesperson of the Thiruvananthapuram division of the Southern Railway said on Friday.
Authorities have started requisitioning bus, trucks and other big vehicles to use for relief work.
Many areas are facing fuel shortage after roads were cut off and many hospitals are grappling with a shortage of oxygen cylinders as the floods disrupted supplies with many towns still under water. A shortage of medicines has also added to Kerala’s mounting woes.
Had a telephone conversation with Kerala CM Shri Pinarayi Vijayan just now. We discussed the flood situation across the state and reviewed rescue operations.
Later this evening, I will be heading to Kerala to take stock of the unfortunate situation due to flooding. @CMOKerala
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 17, 2018