The state of Kerala and its people are sort of having a deja vu moment. A year after it battled the century’s worst floods displacing millions of people and leaving nearly 400 dead, heavy monsoon showers over this week have inundated large parts of the state, triggering landslides and ringing alarm bells in the corridors of the state disaster management department (SDMA).
In a repeat of last year, hundreds of people are already on the move leaving their inundated homes, mainly in the state’s northern and central districts, to temporary shelters set up at government and private schools.
As of Thursday evening, six people have died in rain-related incidents in the state, including a one-and-a-half-year-old girl child in Chinnakanal in Idukki district after a mudslide on their home. Popular hill stations like Munnar and Kumily are cut-off due to landslides on the roads leading to them. Munnar itself received 194 mm alone in the last 24 hours. The Idukki district administration has banned the movement of tourist buses and vehicles and heavy-load trucks on hilly roads between 6 pm and 6 am from August 8-11. Additionally, all forms of off-road, adventure and water-based tourist activities have been suspended in the district till August 15.
A total of 122 relief camps are operating across the state, the highest in Wayanad (71). At these camps, 2337 families consisting of 8110 individuals are present. Nearly 6000 people are housed in relief camps in Wayanad alone.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who convened an emergency meeting today, announced that the assistance of the NDRF and the Army has been sought. A column of Army personnel from the Defence Security Corps centre at Kannur will help in rescue measures in Wayanad district, the CM announced. NDRF personnel have been sent to Nilambur and Idukki. Additionally, battalions of the state police and fire-force have also been deployed.
The CM’s Office on Facebook issued guidelines of the SDMA, asking people to take special care of children so that they do not go near rivers and streams. District collectors have been given special orders to evacuate people from flood-prone areas located close to swelling rivers. People have been advised to cooperate with police and disaster response forces to avoid casualties.
Many of the state’s major rivers like Periyar, Manimala, Muvattupuzha, Chaliyar and Pamba are overflowing. People residing in settlements close to these rivers have been asked to exercise caution and relocate when water-levels rise. Shutters of dams like Bhuthathankettu, Malankara, Kallarkutty, Mangalam and Peringalkuthu were opened to drain out excess water into their respective rivers. Major towns like Nilambur and Munnar are heavily-flooded.
In Ernakulam district, the Aluva Shiva temple, lying on the banks of the Periyar and which goes under water every monsoon, was barely visible on Thursday. The temple serves as an excellent barometer of the severity of the rainfall every monsoon. Panchayats located close to the Periyar like Varapuzha, Chendamangalam, Kuttampuzha, Vadakkekara, Karimalur and Kadungallur are at risk of flooding. In Kannur district, the popular Muthappan temple at Parassinikadavu was flooded Thursday with devotees arriving in boats.
The Meteorological Department station in Thiruvananthapuram has issued code red rain alerts in the districts of Idukki, Wayanad, Malappuram and Kozhikode for August 8 and 9, indicating extremely heavy rainfall. Five other districts – Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kannur and Kasaragod – have been predicted to get ‘isolated heavy to very heavy’ rainfall with code orange alerts issued for them. With strong winds from westerly/southwesterly directions with speeds reaching 40-50 kmph off the Kerala and Tamil Nadu coasts, fishermen in both states have been cautioned from going to the sea. Educational institutions in eight districts of the state have been given a holiday on Friday. Examinations of MG University and Public Service Commission (PSC), scheduled on Friday, have been postponed.
After last year’s experience, in May this year, the state government had approved a new document of the SDMA in which disaster management protocols have been updated. The aim has been to improve the efficiency of government departments in dealing with emergencies. Whether the new set of protocols set by the SDMA will show results will be proved with the heavy rainfall this week.