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Toll rises, thousands displaced in rain fury, worst may not be over yet

A flood-affected boy carries his dog as he and others are moved to a safer place in Paravur in Ernakulam district in Kerala (Photo: Reuters)Premium
A flood-affected boy carries his dog as he and others are moved to a safer place in Paravur in Ernakulam district in Kerala (Photo: Reuters)

  • In Kerala, incessant rains continued to wreak havoc for the second day as the death toll touched 28
  • The extent of the damage will be worrying for Kerala’s coffers, already reeling under a severe financial crisis from the 33,000 crore of damage caused by last year’s floods

Bengaluru: Incessant rains for the second consecutive day battered several states, including Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka on Friday with landslides and floods wreaking havoc, amid rising deaths. Heavy to very heavy rainfall is also likely to hit Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan over the weekend, according to the India Meteorological Department, as Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka prepare for the worst.

In Kerala, rains continued to wreak havoc for the second day, as the death toll from floods and landslides reached 28 on Friday. Corpses were recovered from hillsides and houses destroyed in landslides.

The death toll in Karnataka reached 16 on Friday, with the northern district of Belagavi accounting for at least eight deaths. More than 876 villages in the state have been affected, and over 207,000 people were evacuated.

Around 1,000 people were evacuated in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar and Barwani districts with the river Narmada flowing above the danger mark. At least one death in rain-related incidents was reported.

Flooding in Kerala forced people to leave their homes and wade out in shoulder-deep waters to reach higher ground. The government said 64,013 people have been evacuated to 738 camps, and the state is staring at possibly more than 1,000 crore in damages to public and private properties, spread across most of north and central Kerala.

The extent of the damage will be worrying for the state’s coffers, already reeling under a severe financial crisis from the 33,000 crore of damage caused by last year’s floods.

The worst, however, may be yet to come. Seven Kerala districts are on red alert for extremely heavy rainfall on Saturday, including the most affected ones—Wayanad and Idukki.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan warned: “Tomorrow also there will be severe rains. The rainfall shall subside after Saturday until 15 August, before it peaks again as per the weather department." He urged the public not to panic. Taking a cue from incidents of delayed evacuation last year, he requested people in low-lying areas to evacuate without waiting for the water to reach shoulder-high levels.

“Please don’t stay back if you sense danger. We will contact people in advance where waters are expected to rise and ask them to move," he told reporters.

Nearly all of Kerala’s major rivers—Bharathapuzha, Chaliyar, Meenachil, Periyar, Pamba—are in spate. Regional news channels showed visuals of low-lying areas in northern districts and Idukki are submerged or impacted by landslides.

Vijayan said there is more water in the state than brought by the rains as bordering rivers in Karnataka are also swelling. All ministers have headed to flood-affected areas, and schools, roads, trains and the Kochi airport remained shut for the day.

The government has sanctioned an immediate assistance of 22.5 crore for flood relief, and has requested more central help.

In Wayanad district’s Meppadi, most of a 100-acre tea estate was washed away in a landslide, and in Malappuram district’s Nilambur, an entire hillside collapsed. Both incidents happened on Thursday night, but rescue efforts could begin only on Friday as they were cut off from the mainland.

Kerala is facing more than  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>1,000 crore worth of damage to public and private properties in just two days (Photo: Nithin R.K./Mint)
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Kerala is facing more than 1,000 crore worth of damage to public and private properties in just two days (Photo: Nithin R.K./Mint)

About 60 houses were brought down by landslide in Nilambur, and at least 40 families on the foothills are feared dead, according to local reports. Three bodies, including that of a four-year-old girl, were recovered.

In Meppadi, an entire colony of tea workers, along with a canteen and two devotional centres, were submerged in the landslide.

Nine bodies were recovered and hundreds of people were rescued.

Units from the National Disaster Response Force, along with fire fighters and police, are continuing the search and rescue operations.

With rains set to continue unabated, the state may open more dams than the handful of smaller ones that have remained open until now. Around half-a-dozen large dams are at half their storage capacity.

Wayanad is in a precarious situation— it is already reeling under heavy flooding and the rains are expected to show no respite until a day ahead. The state may open Banasura Sagar dam, the largest earthen dam in India situated in the district on Saturday. The dam has reached almost its full capacity of 253.26 cubic meters and its discharge during last year’s floods had spread panic.

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