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Kerala rains continue to wreak havoc: More dam shutters to be opened; army deployed for rescue operations

Kerala rains continue to wreak havoc: More dam shutters to be opened; army deployed for rescue operations

The heavy southwest monsoon has wreaked havoc in Kerala as water levels continue to rise in rivers and reservoirs. A third red alert was issued for the Idukki Dam reservoir on Thursday night.

As more dam gates are going to opened, four naval teams and a Sea King helicopter have been sent to Wayanad to evacuate stranded people. Army has deployed over 200 personnel at Ayannkulu, Idukki, Wayanad, Kozikode and Mallapuram.

Landslides in some regions have killed 26 people and search and rescue operations are underway in low-lying areas of Ernakulum and Idukki districts. And as heavy rainfall is expected to continue in the next 24 hours, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sought help from the army, navy, coast guard and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and said that "the situation is very serious".

"Things are pretty bad," Kerala power minister MM Mani said. "The shutters of the Idamalyar dam were opened. We will open more shutters of the Idukki dam also," he said. Relief camps have been opened in two villages in Ernakulam to help the affected people.

Meanwhile, the inundation has prompted authorities to open the shutters of the Cheruthoni Dam on Idukki reservoir for the first time in 26 years. In an unprecedented manner, 22 dams have been opened over the last few weeks due to the rising water levels. The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) on Thursday opened all four shutters of the Idamalayar Dam. With the inflow to the reservoir on the rise, the first three shutters were opened early on Thursday morning, while the fourth one was opened later. All shutters were opened by 80 centimetres in the beginning, but three shutters had to be raised by one or two metres. Around 700 cubic metres per second (cusecs) of water is being released from the shutters as of now, The Hindu reported.

The Kochi airport also suspended all arrivals at the international and domestic terminals for two hours on Thursday fearing flooding of the runway after the gates of the Idukki dam were opened, NDTV reported. The airport is located close to Aluva near the Periyar river into which the water released from the Idukki reservoir will flow. A emergency control room has been opened at the International terminal while a team of the NDRF has moved to Kozhikode for rescue operations.

Schools and colleges will remain shut in many districts and the annual Nehru boat race in Alappuzha has also been postponed. The United States Consulate General Chennai has issued a travel alert and advised its citizens to avoid visiting areas affected by landslides and flashfloods.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that a total of 10 relief camps have been set up in Palakkad taluk which are currently housing over 190 families. He informed the media that teams of the National Disaster Response Force, comprising 45 personnel each, have left Chennai for Kerala to assist the rescue and relief operations. An Inter-Ministerial Central Team of the Central government is also visiting flood-affected areas in Kerala, while Army troops are being mobilised from Bengaluru for deployment in the state. Vijayan said that he has received support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy.

Kerala's power minister urged people not to panic, insisting that situation is under control. Meanwhile, Kerala district collectors have been given permission to hire bulldozers, generators and lights for relief operations as flood-like situation is building in Palakkad district. Also, with the opening of all four shutters of the Idamalayar Dam and rising water levels in the Periyar River, revenue authorities at Aluva Taluk have also been alerted. Around 13 villages and about 4000 people are expected to be affected by the inundation, according to The Hindu report.

President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted to offer condolences to those killed in the tragedy. "Sad to hear of loss of lives due to floods in Kerala. Condolences to the bereaved families. Thoughts with fellow citizens, especially children who have been affected. Urge govt authorities, relief agencies, civil society and citizens to band together and pool efforts," he said.

Union Minister of State for Tourism KJ Alphons said Kerala has been witnessing an "unprecedented flood" situation since Wednesday and incessant rains for the last two weeks. "It is the biggest rain we had in 50 years," Alphons was quoted as saying by ANI.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami has announced a contribution of Rs five crore to Kerala as a mark of support. Referring to the situation, Palaniswami conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families. The chief minister said he has ordered "immediate contribution" from the chief minister's public relief fund.

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