26 dead, others missing after heavy rains in Kerala, rescue operation continues

KERALA: The National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF) and defence forces have been pressed into rescue and relief operations in Kerala, where heavy rains since Friday triggered landslides and floods, killing 26 people. Of the 26 deaths, 13 were reported from Kottayam, nine from Idukki and four from Alappuzha district.

The Army, NDRF, police and the Fire Force along with the locals began rescue operations on Sunday morning at Koottickal in Kottayam district and Kokkayar in Idukki district, where over a dozen people have been reported missing due to landslides accompanied by heavy downpour. Search operations are underway for the missing persons in the debris.

Among the bodies recovered were those of three children, aged eight, seven and four, who were found holding on to each other, officials said.

Officials said rescue operators on Sunday morning recovered five more bodies from Koottickal. The bodies have not been identified yet. The Madras Regiment from Pangode military station commenced the rescue operation at Kavali village, 4 km away from Koottickal.

Kottayam district collector PK Jayasree said at around 4 pm on Sunday, “Presently, the situation is under control. If it rains heavily at night, it’ll create problems… [Apart from the 13 deaths] No other missing persons reported.”

Defence PRO said a Navy helicopter with relief materials was on its way from INS Garuda towards rain-affected areas in the state. Two Mi-17 helicopters are on standby at the Air Force Station in Shangumugham, ready for deployment in rescue efforts.

One column of Army personnel from DSC Centre in Kannur, with engineering and medical teams, arrived at Wayanad for rescue ops on Sunday, the Defence PRO said. An Engineering Task Force from Bengaluru is expected to arrive at Wayanad soon. So far, three columns have been deployed by the Army.

NDRF director general S N Pradhan had said on Saturday that one team each will be deployed in Malappuram, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Pathanamthitta, Palakkad, Kottayam, Kannur and Kollam while two teams will be stationed at Idukki.

Home Minister Amit Shah said on Sunday the Centre was monitoring the situation in Kerala and has already deployed NDRF teams to aid rescue ops in the rain-ravaged parts of the state.

“We are continuously monitoring the situation in parts of Kerala in the wake of heavy rainfall and flooding. The central govt will provide all possible support to help people in need. NDRF teams have already been sent to assist the rescue operations. Praying for everyone’s safety,” Shah tweeted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to say he had spoken to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan about the flood situation.

He wrote, “Spoke to Kerala CM and discussed the situation in the wake of heavy rains and landslides in Kerala. Authorities are working on the ground to assist the injured and affected. I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being. It is saddening that some people have lost their lives due to heavy rains and landslides in Kerala. Condolences to the bereaved families.”

In a Facebook post, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said relief camps have been opened in the disaster-struck regions. He directed the authorities concerned to ensure that the camps are functioning adhering to Covid-19 health protocols.

However, Kerala Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan, who visited Kokkayar and Koottickal, alleged that the state government had failed to launch rescue operations in time in the affected areas.

According to the Central Water Commission, the water level in Madamon, Kalluppara, Thumpaman, Pullakayar, Manikkal, Vellaikadavu and Aruvipuram dams in Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram districts is rising.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that intense rainfall activity over Kerala will reduce ‘significantly’ from today, October 17. Yellow alert for heavy rain have been issued in eleven districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram and Kozhikode.

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