Kerala still in deep water
All 5 floodgates of Idukki dam opened after 42 years, toll rises to 28; Centre assures all help
As heavy rain continued to lash various parts of Kerala for the third consecutive day on Friday, the Centre assured all possible assistance to the State to meet the emergency situation even as the number of deaths due to landslides and flooding in more than half of Kerala since Wednesday mounted to 28.
The situation remained grim almost all over the State with shutters of 24 major dams remaining open causing flooding in low-lying areas, inundation of roads and farmlands and swelling of rivers and lakes. Considering the grimness of the situation, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan cancelled all his public programmes till Sunday. Anxiety kept mounting on Friday among people living on the banks of the Cheruthoni and Periyar rivers as the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) opened all the five shutters of the Cheruthoni dam of the giant three-dam Idukki hydel reservoir system for the first time since its commissioning in 1976 as water level rose rapidly to meet the maximum storage level.
However, some improvement was witnessed in the weather on Friday in certain areas of northern Kerala that have borne the worst brunt of the monsoon fury making the relief and restoration works by Defence personnel and the National Disaster Response Force a bit easier. Floodwaters also showed signs of receding in some areas in the Malabar region. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to carry out an aerial survey of the State’s flood-affected areas on Sunday. “Spoke to Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and discussed the prevailing flood situation in the State. I have assured all possible assistance from the Centre to the State Government. The MHA is closely monitoring the flood situation,” Singh tweeted. The death toll in landslides and flooding in the State since Wednesday rose to 28 on Friday with one death each reported from Wayanad, Malappuram, Thiruvananthapuram and Idukki districts. One person was reported to have gone missing after being trapped in a swollen river near Kuruva island in Wayanad.
Steps were on to shift nearly 6,500 families to safer places from the Aluva region near Kochi and other areas downstream of Idukki as the water from Idukki reservoir began causing massive swelling of River Periyar.
The river had swollen by over two metres on Thursday after water was released from the Idamalayar reservoir upstream at a rate of 600 cubic meters per second.
The possibility of massive swelling of the River Periyar in Aluva with the water released from the Idukki reservoir threatened to disrupt Saturday’s Karakataka Vavu Bali, the Hindu ritual of making offerings to departed souls for which tens of thousands of devotees would gather on its sand banks (Manappuram) near the Sree Mahadeva temple. Kochi is experiencing a shortage of drinking water as gushing flood waters have affected pumping operations from the Periyar river, officials said.
However, Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan said that the ritual would take place without any change. “Vavu Bali is a matter of faith and we cannot do anything about that. All I want to say is that those who come to Aluva for that should keep in mind the situation,” he said. “The situation in the State is under control and all necessary steps have been taken,” he added.
The opening of the shutters of Anathode and Moozhiyar dams, two of the eight dams of the Sabarigiri hydel project in Pathanamthitta district, also caused doubts about the smooth conduct of the Vavu Bali on the banks of the River Pampa. The authorities have already warned people against going near the waterline of River Pampa in the particular situation.
Tourist Minister Kadakampally Surendran said he would discuss with the Chief Minister about the proposal to cancel the Government’s official Onam festival celebrations. The Opposition had asked the Government to cancel the celebrations and use the Rs 30 crore earmarked for that for the relief operations.
Defence and NDRF personnel succeeded in bringing to safety some of the 70 tourists, including 19 foreign nationals who were trapped in a private tourist resort at Pallivasal in Munnar following a landslide near the facility. It is said that the resort was operating illegally and without clearance from the State Disaster Management Authority.
Meanwhile, Army, NDRF, fire and rescue and police personnel continued rescue and restoration activities in areas ravaged by floods and landslides in Wayanad, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Idukki districts amidst reports of heavy rainfall in the mountainous areas in several places in the Malabar region.
The Revenue Department is yet to come up with an estimate of the losses the State has suffered in the rain fury of the past three days. At least a dozen major bridges and several small ones and many main and rural roads had been washed away by floodwaters while it would take several weeks for the water supply systems in many towns and villages to come back to normal.
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