Kerala reels from rain and floods as death toll soars

Residents wading through a flooded street next to marooned houses on the outskirts of Kerala's northern Kozhikode district. With thousands still trapped in flooded areas, power and communication lines down and fresh alerts of further torrential rain,
Residents wading through a flooded street next to marooned houses on the outskirts of Kerala's northern Kozhikode district. With thousands still trapped in flooded areas, power and communication lines down and fresh alerts of further torrential rain, the authorities have warned of even more trouble ahead.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Residents wading through a flooded street next to marooned houses on the outskirts of Kerala's northern Kozhikode district. With thousands still trapped in flooded areas, power and communication lines down and fresh alerts of further torrential rain,
Residents in a flooded area being airlifted by navy personnel. More than 30 helicopters and 320 boats are involved in the rescue effort. PHOTO: REUTERS

223,000 people in South Indian state end up in relief camps after their homes are flooded

MUMBAI • The worst floods in a century in the southern Indian state of Kerala have caused the deaths of at least 324 people and forced more than 200,000 into relief camps, officials said yesterday.

The death toll from 10 days of floods in the state - famous for its coastline and picturesque backwaters - has doubled in the last 24 hours, jumping from 164.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a tweet yesterday that his state was "facing the worst flood in 100 years", with "324 lives lost".

The state government has described the crisis as "extremely grave". With thousands still trapped in flooded areas, power and communication lines down and fresh alerts of further torrential rain, the authorities have warned of even more trouble ahead.

Mr Vijayan yesterday called for the military to step up help for the rescue effort, which already involves more than 30 military helicopters and 320 boats. Local fishermen have also joined the operation with their boats.

"I spoke to the Defence Minister this morning and asked for more helicopters," Mr Vijayan told a news conference in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram. "In some areas, airlifting is the only option... Thousands are still marooned," he said.

Thousands of people have been trapped by the worst floods to hit the southern Indian state of Kerala in a century. Some residents were spotted yesterday up on the roof waiting to be rescued. The death toll from the floods jumped to 324 yesterday, whi
Thousands of people have been trapped by the worst floods to hit the southern Indian state of Kerala in a century. Some residents were spotted yesterday up on the roof waiting to be rescued. The death toll from the floods jumped to 324 yesterday, while more than 200,000 people have been forced into relief camps. With power and communication lines down, and more torrential rain expected, the authorities have warned of even more trouble ahead. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Vijayan said some of the dead were killed in landslides, while about 223,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes and stay in 1,568 relief camps.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was set to visit Kerala yesterday, said on Twitter that he has discussed the flood situation with Mr Vijayan.

Mr Vijayan's office also issued a fresh warning of heavy rain for around 33 million residents of the state. "Alert: All districts apart from Kasargod are under red alert... Heavy rain may affect these 13 districts. Everyone, please be cautious," his office tweeted.

A state official told Agence France-Presse that apart from the new rain warnings, a breakdown of the communication system was making it difficult to reach people who may be in urgent need of help in the worst-affected areas.

On social media, some locals such as Mr Ajo Varghese have been posting desperate appeals for relief and rescue. "My family and neighbouring families are in trouble with flood in the Pandanad Nakkada area in Alappuzha," Mr Varghese said in a Facebook post.

The gates of at least 34 major dams and reservoirs across the state have been opened as water levels reached danger levels.

The state, famed for its palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is always pummelled by the annual monsoon, but this year's damage has been the most severe in almost a century. The floods have shut the international airport in the main commercial city of Kochi until at least Aug 26.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2018, with the headline 'Kerala reels from rain and floods as death toll soars'. Print Edition | Subscribe