Kerala: Death toll crosses 30, many stuck in debris

A screengrab from an SOS video, shows the intensity of the landslide at Puthumala near Meenanagadi in Wayanad district. About 70 houses, a church, a temple and some shops were damaged.

Kerala continued to be in the grip of nature's fury as over 20 more persons were killed across the state on Friday and close to 100 people reported missing in floods and landslides. The total death toll over the last three days was around 30 till Friday evening.

Two major landslides occurred at Wayanad and Malappuram districts on Thursday evening. But major rescue operations could not be initiated in these localities till Friday evening owing to rough weather and difficulty in reaching those remote areas as road and bridges were also destroyed.

Local people expressed fears that close to 100 people might be stuck under the debris. Many places in hilly districts of Wayanad, Malappuram and Idukki were totally cut off from the rest of the world as roads and bridges were damaged and communication infrastructure were down.

At Putthumala near Mepadi in Wayanad, about 20 kilometres from Kalpetta town, a major landslide occurred on Thursday afternoon. A temple, church and scores of houses were razed in the landslide. Eight bodies, including that of three of a family, were recovered from the area till Friday afternoon as rescue workers could reach the spot only by morning. Local people expressed fears that at least 40 persons were still missing. Efforts to check whether they shifted to any other safe locations were still futile.

Raju, a local native who had a narrow escape, told the media that since the landslide came all on a sudden with a huge sound, the people could not even run to safer places.

Kerala Transport Minister A K Saseendran who visited the area said that due to the rough weather major rescue operations were not possible in the area so far. All possible measures like service of Air Force was sought.

The other major landslide occurred at Kavalapara in the interior areas of Malappuram district near Nilambur, about 40 kilometres from Malappuram town. Though the incident took place on Thursday evening, rescue workers could reach the spot only by Friday afternoon. While three bodies, including that of an aged woman and two children, were recovered, local people fear that close to 50 persons might have been trapped beneath the debris.

Local people said that the landslide caved in over 30 houses by around 8 p.m. People who managed to escape were desperately searching for their dear and near ones at the nearby areas. Two bridges leading to spot was destroyed in the floods, making it very difficult for the rescue personnel to reach the spot. A local MLA P V Anvar said that the rough weather was even posing risk to the rescue workers.

At Edavana in Malappuram district, four members of a family of one Unais were killed after their house got destroyed by a landslide. At Vadakara in Kozhikode four persons, including three of a family, died after a building collapsed. Two persons, identified as Muhammed Haji and Sherif, were reported to have drowned at Kuttiyadi in rural parts of Kozhikode. At Irutty in Kannur district one person, identified as Joy, drowned. One person was reported killed in a landslide at Chinnar in Idukki. At Vazhikadavu in Malappuram district, two sisters were reported missing in floods.

At Sreekandapuram, many two-storey houses were under floodwaters. The area was totally isolated. People in the area were safely located to different parts of the state. A section of fisherman also joined the rescue operations in the locality.

Several parts of Idukki, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Palakkad, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Kottayam district were severely flooded. People from the flooded areas were shifted to relief camps. Road traffic in many hilly areas, especially Wayanad, was badly hit owing to landslides at many parts. Train services were disrupted owing to flooding of railway tracks as well as landslides at Ernakulam, Shornur and Malappuram areas. About 15 train services in Kerala on Friday were cancelled, three fully and eleven partially. A couple of trains were diverted vila Thirunelvelli route.

The IMD sounded Red Alert in seven districts on Saturday also - Wayanad, Malappuram, Idukki, Ernakulam, Kannur, Kozhikode and Palakkad. Though the heavy rains may subside after 24 hours, there was a chance for another spell of heavy rains from August 15, said revenue department sources.

Though shutter of many dams, including Banasurasagar in Wayanad, were opened the Idukki dam, which is the major reservoir in the state was only having 30 percent water till Friday evening.

As many as 12 team of NDRF, Indian Coast Guard disaster response team, army and other defence services including Engineering Task Force were carrying out the rescue operations at various parts of the state apart from the local police and the Kerala Fire and Rescue Services personnel.

Meanwhile, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged the Tamil Nadu government to immediately rectify damaged of Contour canal as it was leading to increasing of water level in the Chalakkudy River in central Kerala.

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