Heavy rains and landslides claimed 22 lives in Kerala on Thursday forcing authorities to open shutters of 22 dams, including the Idukki reservoir, Asia’s biggest arch dam, after 26 years, Hindustantimes.com reported.
Four units of army were deployed in worst-affected Idukki, Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram districts and navy and air force units are on standby as weathermen predicted heavy downpour for another day.
“Flood situation is really serious. We are forced to open 22 dams in the state due to incessant rains. Such a situation never arose in the recent past. We have sought the army, navy and air force’s help and control rooms will be opened in six worst-affected districts,” said chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan after an emergency cabinet meet.
He said the state was facing a disaster of unprecedented magnitude and sought everyone’s help to tide over it.
A revenue official said Idukki bore the maximum brunt with 11 deaths, followed by six in Malappuram, three in Wayanad and rest in other districts.
Besides 22 deaths, eight others were missing. At least 3,000 people were shifted to safer areas and the authorities had opened 130 temporary shelters.
Incidentally, the second spell of flood occurred at a time when a central team was visiting the state to assess the damage caused in central Kerala last month.
In Idukki, of the five shutters of the Cheruthoni dam, only one was partially opened to release 50,000 litres of water per second from the swollen reservoir. The shutter will be closed after monitoring the water flow downstream.
“Catchment area is still getting heavy rains. We are monitoring the situation and we will open more shutters of Idukki if needed,” said state power minister M M Mani who is camping in the area.
The 45-year-old Idukki dam had not filled to such levels in the past 26 years. Idukki reservoir has three dams — the main dam on Periyar that holds the maximum water has no shutters as it is situated between two imposing granite hills locally known as Kuravan and Kurathi hills.
The other two are Cheruthoni and Kulamavu dams. The partial opening of a shutter on Cheruthoni means all other dams downstream will have to be opened to ease the pressure of water. There are 14 dams in the district.
The Cochin International Airport was partially closed for a couple of hours, but later a spokesman of CIAL said normalcy was restored.
Train services were also disrupted on the busy Palakkad-Coimbatore section for many hours due to landslips.
Northern Kerala’s Wayanad district was completely cut off by landslides and army personnel were pressed into service to restore road network in the hill district.
Educational institutions were closed in six districts and people have been advised to avoid travel in hilly areas of the state. The CM also requested people not to crowd dam areas and take selfies.
Last month, Alappuzha and Kottayam districts in central Kerala were flooded, killing 40 people.
A central team led by Union ministers Kiran Rijiju and K J Alpohns visited the areas and announced an initial relief of Rs 80 crore. A second team comprising senior officials is visiting the state to assess damage.