30 killed, over 50,000 homeless as heavy rains continue across Kerala

Dams and rivers overflowed, parts of highways collapsed, and homes were swept away in severe flooding in more than half of Kerala on Friday in the third day of heavy downpour that has claimed the lives of 30 people and left nearly 54,000 homeless.

The flooding became more intense after all five gates of the Idukki dam were opened and shutters of more than two dozen dams were lifted, making the Periyar river swell further. The rains had already increased its flow. Almost all 40-odd rivers in the state are in spate, officials said.

According to officials from the state disaster management unit, six more people died since Thursday, taking the flood toll to 30. The majority of the deaths happened in the first 36 hours when the downpour caused flash floods and landslides.

Officials from the state meteorological office said that heavy rain was expected for two more days.

The Indian Navy on Friday launched Operation Madad to help people stranded in remote locations. “Besides small search vessels, helicopters were also pressed into service. The navy hospital is also ready to meet any eventuality,” the southern naval command said in a statement.

Soldiers from the army and air force and personnel from the National Disaster Relief Force have also been pressed into service, said state revenue minister E Chandrasekharan

News agency PTI quoted unnamed state officials as saying that a total of 53,501 people were housed in 439 relief camps across the state.

A government official said if rain in the catchment areas does not let up, it could be a matter of concern as more water will need to be released.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh will make an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas on Sunday. Minister of state for tourism KJ Alphons said the state was undergoing the worst flood in its history and Centre will provide all help.

Tourists were barred from entering the hilly Idukki district after roads caved in at many places. Army soldiers were building small bridges to evacuate people stranded at various places in Kozhikode and Wayanad.

People living downstream of Periyar river in Kochi, and Cheruthoni river in Idukki have been warned of a possibility of inundation of banks.

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