Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 15: The death toll in Kerala, which has been grappled with the worst floods in nearly a century since past week, has mounted to 67, Chief Minister Pinararyi Vijayan said on Wednesday. Also Read - After 'Modi Aarti', This BJP MLA Wants to Build a 'Modi Temple' With the PM's Idol; Says 'I Worship Him'
The unceasing downpour further battered the already floor-hit state resulting in 25 more deaths and further destruction, forcing the authorities to issue a red alert across Kerala. Also Read - Coronavirus in India: Number of Total Cases Crosses 1,45,000 | Why Situation in Kerala is Worrying
Meanwhile, the mounting tension between Kerala and Tamil Nadu over the rising water level in Mullaperiyar Dam and its outflow has been resolved following timely intervention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday, said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Also Read - Rise in Cases Expected, Says Pinarayi Vijayan as Kerala Sees Highest Single-Day Spike, 14-Day Quarantine Must For Air Travellers
Vijayan told the media on Wednesday night that following the heavy rains in and around the catchment areas of the Mullaperiyar Dam for the past few days, the water level has reached 142 feet.
“With the water level rising, the sluice gates of the dam were opened, but the inflow into the dam was higher than the outflow and that was a cause of concern.
“Given the situation, our Chief Secretary spoke to his counterpart in Tamil Nadu. We also brought this to the notice of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. Soon they intervened and have sorted out the issue and now the outflow and the inflow has become the same,” said Vijayan.
With no let-up in the rains, operations of the Kochi airport have been suspended till Saturday. Flights are being diverted to other airports as the state has been battered by torrential rains since August 8.
From Kasaragod in the north to Thiruvananthapuram in the south, all rivers are in spate and shutters of 35 dams, including Mullaperiyar, have been opened.
Vijayan appealed to the people for generous contributions to battle the worst floods faced by Kerala in nearly a century.
Vijayan said the heavy rains would continue for some more days, which will further worsen the situation.
More than 1.5 lakh people have been lodged in relief camps across the state, he said.
The Kerala CM spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi late Wednesday evening and was assured of all necessary help.
PM Modi said the entire country is standing with all its might to help people who have lost their kin and faced hardships due to the calamity.
“These days, we are hearing news of rains from different parts of the country. At the same time, there is also news of floods,” Modi said during his last Independence Day speech before Lok Sabha elections from the Red Fort.
“Due to excess rainfall floods, families, who have lost their closed ones and had to go through hardships, the country is standing by them with all its might to help them. Those who have lost the lives of their own, I share their sorrow,” he said.
Train services have been disrupted and road transport services are in disarray with stretches of roads coming under water.
Officials said a holiday has been declared for educational institutions in all districts barring Kasaragod tomorrow while colleges and universities have postponed exams.
Power supply, communication systems and distribution of drinking water have been disrupted in various parts of the state in the rain mayhem.
As the situation became grave, the state government sought the help of more teams of army personnel, National Disaster Response Force and Army Engineering.
The deaths reported on Wednesday included those of five of a family in Malappuram who were crushed when their house collapsed. Three were reported missing, while one child was rescued.
A person died in a Munnar lodge collapse. A 70-year-old woman was electrocuted near Pathanamthitta as her house was submerged.
Landslides claimed lives in Malappuram too. In Thiruvananthapuram district, a 70-year-old man died after the wall of his house collapsed.
Two landslides occurred in Idukki in late evening, killing five people. Four persons were reported missing in the landslips.
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 rain which submerged several low-lying areas. Officials hurriedly opened 14 relief camps.
Among those who had to be shifted from their homes were veteran Congress leader and former State party President V.M. Sudheeran and his wife. Actor turned BJP Rajya Sabha member Suresh Gopi’s house in the city was also flooded.
The famed tourist destination in Munnar has been closed for traffic, following flooding of 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 Pamba river was in spate.
On Wednesday, Vijayan took the Independence Day salute amid rain here and urged everyone to contribute generously.
The Idukki dam floodgates were reopened late on Tuesday as the water level in the Periyar river and its tributaries flowing through Ernakulam and Thrissur districts rose menacingly.
The shutters of the Mullaperiyar dam were opened at 2.35 a.m. after its level crossed 140 feet. People living in and around the dam were evacuated late on Tuesday.
The Cochin International Airport was closed till Saturday afternoon as water released from the Idukki dam flooded the area. Airport Director A.C.K. Nair called the development “unprecedented”.
“We decided to take this step because since last night dams like Idukki, Mullaperiyar, Idamalayar have opened their shutters. The water released reaches the Periyar river and one of its tributaries flows close to the airport and it is overflowing, sending the water to our operational area,” said Nair.
He pointed out that with more rain predicted in the coming days, it was decided to close the airport operations.
“Once the water recedes, it will take us 24 hours to clean up. Then only flights will resume. As of now, we have decided to close down till 2 p.m. on August 18,” said Nair.
Cochin airport is one of the three international airports in the state, and the busiest.
Three new teams of Military Engineering Task Force were scheduled to arrive in the state capital in the evening. A team of naval officials has already reached Alappuzha district for relief and rescue.
Other defence forces and disaster response teams already in the state for the past few days are busy in putting up makeshift bridges and clearing roads in the affected areas in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam, Idukki and Kannur districts.
Indian Air Force personnel used helicopters to airlift scores of people to safety in water-logged Pathanamthitta district on Wednesday evening.
The heaviest rains and floods since 1924 have caused massive destruction, leaving more than 50,000 people in relief camps and damage to crops and properties that the state estimated to be over Rs 8,000 crore.
(With inputs from agencies)