Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 15: Unceasing torrential rains continued to batter Kerala on Wednesday killing eight more people and taking the death toll to 47 since August 8, and forcing authorities to shut down Kochi international airport till Saturday after water gushed inside the airport area.
Meanwhile, train services remained suspended in many parts of the state.
A red alert has been sounded in 12 of the 14 districts. Of the 14 districts, as many as 11 including Idukki, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram, Pathanamthitta, Kannur and Ernakulam are on red alert, an official euphemism to mean that huge devastation was expected.
Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts are on orange alert, asking the authorities and people to be prepared as there was a higher likelihood of bad weather.
Operations at the Kochi airport have been suspended till August 18 and flights were being diverted to various airports.
Airlines including IndiGo, Air India and SpiceJet have announced suspension of their operations to Kochi.
“All flights to/fro Kochi, stand cancelled till Aug 16, 2018 due to runway unavailability owing to flood situation. For cancellations/rescheduling, please visit bit.Ly/2ndGnZ8 We hope everything gets normal soon,” IndiGo said in a tweet.
Air India tweeted, “In view of suspension of operations at @KochiAirport, penalties on no-show, date/flight change or cancellations on all confirmed tickets to and from Cochin are waived off. Pax may contact #airindia call centre or #airindia website.”
On Wednesday, Chief Minister Vijayan took the Independence Day salute despite rains here and urged everyone to contribute generously to overcome the challenge of the floods and its destruction.
In a first, sluice gates of 33 dams across Kerala have been opened, following incessant rains since late Tuesday. More rains have been forecast till Saturday.
More and more people are pouring into relief camps, including those who had earlier returned to their homes in Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Wayanad districts.
The capital district on Wednesday witnessed heavy rains, submerging several low lying areas. Officials hurriedly opened 14 relief camps.
The famed tourist destination in Munnar has been closed for traffic, following flooding at the Old Munnar town.
The Sabarimala temple has warned pilgrims not to reach the shrine in view of the surging river waters in the vicinity.
Although special prayers were listed for Wednesday, the temple was closed to devotees as the river Pamba was in spate.
The shutters of the Mullaperiyar dam were opened at 2.35 a.m. after its water level crossed 140 feet.
People living in and around the dam were evacuated late on Tuesday.
The heaviest rains and floods since 1924 have caused massive destruction. Over 50,000 people are in relief camps and the damage to crops and properties is estimated to be over Rs 8,000 crore.
(With inputs from agencies)