Worst flood in century kills over 60 in Kerala

Rescue personnel using an inflatable boat to evacuate stranded residents in Kerala yesterday.
Rescue personnel using an inflatable boat to evacuate stranded residents in Kerala yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KOCHI, India • The death toll from the worst floods in nearly a century in the Indian tourist state of Kerala rose to at least 67 yesterday as rising water stranded tens of thousands of people and forced the closure of one of its main airports.

The latest fatalities from the rain that began a week ago came when the authorities in the southern state were forced to release water from 35 dangerously full dams, sending a surge into its main river.

"Presently, 35 reservoirs in the state are releasing water. Many districts in the state are facing floods," the state's Chief Minister, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, said on Twitter.

He had also announced a compensation of 400,000 rupees (S$7,800) each to families of those killed in floods.

"With more deaths in the last two days after fresh monsoon rains lashed the state after a lull of couple of days, the toll in rain-related incidents has now risen...

"This is turning out to be Kerala's worst monsoon in almost a century," a disaster management official said yesterday.

The Indian Meteorological Department has forecast heavy to very heavy rain in the state until Saturday and it has issued a "red alert" for 12 out of its 14 districts.

The airport in the port city of Kochi will stay shut until Saturday afternoon.

The rain and floods have destroyed and damaged hundreds of houses, and displaced over 34,000 people in the past week, causing significant losses to crops in the state known for its spices and coffee. More than 10,000km of roads have also been damaged.

A senior official with the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, Mr Sekhar Lukose Kuriakose, said the seasonal rains have killed more than 200 people in the state since May and displaced many.

The state last saw such devastating flooding in 1924.

Famous for its coastline and picturesque backwaters, Kerala is a major destination for domestic and international tourists.

REUTERS, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2018, with the headline 'Worst flood in century kills over 60 in Kerala'. Print Edition | Subscribe