Kochi: Before the scars from last year's devastating deluge could even heal, Kerala is once again being battered by heavy rains with landslides and floods wrecking havoc. Eight lives have been lost so far while over 9,500 people have been shifted to relief camps.
A massive landslide has been reported from Meppadi in the hilly Wayanad district. Early reports indicate that as many as 40 people are suspected to be trapped under the debris of the landslide. Three were rescued. A temple, a mosque, couple of houses and a few vehicles have come under soil and several are feared missing.
Kalpeta MLA C K Saseendran said the place where the landslide happened was inaccessible due to other similar cave-ins along the road.
He said he had already requested the Chief Minister to seek the Army's assistance for rescue operations.
"Landslide has happened at many places in Wayanad district. We came to know that a temple, a church, couple of houses and a few vehicles were hit in a massive landslide.
The trouble with that place is that it's quite inaccessible. I am trying to reach there....The roads are blocked due to landslips. We are worried. We are not able to share much details due to lack of information," the MLA said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday night held an meeting with government and State Disaster Management Authority officials, and said a serious situation prevails in parts of the state, especially in Wayanad.
The evaluation meeting was held after the major landslide in Meppadi area in Wayanad, the constituency of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
As 'red alert' has been sounded in northern districts of Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad and central Kerala district Idukki, as torrential rains submerged low-lying areas leaving people stranded in houses, IMD sources said.
A less severe warning - orange alert - has been issued for Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kannur and Kasargod districts.
The state government has sought the help of Army and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for rescue operations.
According to disaster management authority sources, three people from Idukki, one each in Kannur, Palakkad and Thrissur and two in Wayanad died in rain related incidents Thursday.
A one-year-old girl child was among the dead.
Holiday for educational institutions in 12 districts, exams postponed
Barring Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts, educational institutions will remain closed in rest of the 12 districts on August 9 following heavy rains.
All educational institutions will remain closed in Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Thrissur, Palakkad, Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Idukki, Wayanad and Kasaragod districts on Friday.
Kannur, Calicut and Mahatma Gandhi universities have postponed all examinations scheduled for Friday. The PSC exams which were to be held tomorrow has been postponed to August 30.
All exams by the Kerala Public Service Commission and various Universities across the state, scheduled for tomorrow, have been postponed, officials said.
All transport services including road, rail and air were disrupted acorss the state. Most of the trains are getting delayed by nearly five hours.
In Kozhikode, Two flights have been divereted and one flight cancelled from Kozhikode International Airport. The Gulf Air flight from Bahrain has been diverted to Kochi, while the Etihad flight from Abu Dabhi has been diverted to Coimbatore. Etihad flight to Doha has cancelled Thursday's service.
Cochin international Airport will remain temporarily closed until 9am on Friday on account of the flooding of the ramp area. The Airport's emergency number is 0484-3053500.
Fisherfolks from Malappuram's Tanur region are making their way to Vaniampuzha in Nilambur to aid the rescue efforts there. NDRF teams have already begun rescue operations in Nilambur and Nadukani regions. The water-level has risen to unprecedented levels in Nilambur, officials informed.
According to disaster management authorities, 13 NDRF teams would be deployed for rescue operations and five teams are already out on the mission.
With this, the toll has risen to 36 since the onset of the South West Monsoon on June 6, which arrived a week late.
The state government has asked tourists not to travel to high range areas including Idukki while restrictions have been imposed in Ponmudi, a hill station near here.
The popular forest tourist destination of Gavi in Pathanamthitta district has also been closed due to incessant rains.
The water level is rising in most rivers and dams with Kannur, Wayanad, Idukki, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kasaragod districts facing a flood-like situation.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who chaired an emergency meeting this morning to take stock of the situation, said the state should be prepared for more downpour.
"Heavy rain has increased across most of Northern Kerala. The main threat will be across Nilambur and Wayanad. Red alerts have been issued for four districts.
We are keeping a close eye on the situation," Vijayan tweeted.
The chief minister's office has directed district collectors to evacuate people from danger-prone areas.
"We have requested more NDRF teams to be sent to the state. Already two teams have been sent to Nilambur and Idukki," a CMO release said.
Rivers in spate
Major rivers Manimala, Meenachal, Moovattupuzha, Chaliyar, Valapattanam, Iruvazjinjpuzha and Pamba have breached their banks, and shutters of a few dams have been opened. The developments brought back memories of the 2018 floods.
A large number of houses were damaged in heavy rains and strong winds which lashed the state since Wednesday.
Nilambur, a major town in Malappuram district, has been flooded and isolated, with water level rising up to the first floor of many a building.
Only roofs of shops and houses could be seen in many parts of the submerged town, where people were seen using country-made boats and large metal cooking vessels to row to safety.
Parked cars and other vehicles were submerged and nearly 200 families have been shifted to 10 relief camps.
Rescue camps set up
In high-range Wayanad, which had witnessed heavy loss in the August floods last year, 87 relief camps have been opened and over 6,100 people have been shifted.
Official sources said 156 relief camps have been opened across the state.
A landslide was reported from Chappamala at Iritty taluk in Kannur district.
Around 50 families have been evacuated from the taluk, where most places are submerged, since Wednesday night.
Munnar, a high range tourist destination in Idukki district, has been receiving heavy rain with the IMD recording 19.4 cm rain as per the latest report.
Widespread landslips were also reported from across the district with most major roads getting blocked and Marayur, the sandalwood forest reserve, almost being cut-off from the mainland.
People living on the banks of river Periyar including Aluva, have been asked to be more vigilant as water level was rising due to heavy rains.
Water has entered the famous Shiva temple situated on the banks of the Periyar, authorities said.
During last year's flood, many areas in Aluva were cut off from the mainland.
Reports from Kottayam district said many areas including Pala, Erattupetta and Mundakkayam are under flood threat.
Over 400 people were killed and lakhs displaced in the August deluge last year, the worst in the state's history in a century. According to government officials, 29 rain deaths have been reported since the onset of the monsoon on June 6 this year.
(With inputs from PTI)