At least 15 bodies have been recovered and many people are still either trapped under debris or missing after a major landslide swept through a plantation labour encampment in kerala’s Idukki district early on Friday morning.

The enormity of the tragedy was emerging even after nine hours into the evening.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has announced an ex gratia of ₹5 lakh for the next of kin of the victims and said that the State government would look after the treatment of the injured. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced an ex gratia of ₹2 lakh from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund for the dead and ₹50,000 for the injured.

Unprecedented crisis

“Nature has chosen to strike the State for a third August in succession, and combined with the uptick in Covid-19 forecast over the next few days, it is witnessing an unprecedented crisis that is testing its resilience and disaster preparedness like no other time in the past. It is now time for all to come to its aid,” Vijayan said in a televised address.

Not dissimilar is the situation in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, which too has been receiving heavy to very heavy rainfall interspersed with extremely heavy spells. Many rivers in the two States have breached their banks, and in a few cases in Kerala, some have even changed course.

Record-breaking rainfall in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris district has paralysed life in the last couple of days. The avalanche region alone received a record 82 cm rain in the last 24 hours (as on Thursday), the highest single day rainfall ever recorded in a particular place in the State.

TN CM issues directives

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami today took stock of the situation in Nilgiris district and advised Collector J Innocent Divya to inspect areas affected by floods and take up relief works on a war footing.

Incessant monsoon rain has been creating havoc on both sides of the vulnerable Western Ghat regions over the past couple of days. Even more rain has been warned, with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issuing a series of alerts for heavy rainfall for Kerala and Tamil Nadu on Saturday and Sunday.

The Cochin International Airport has been unaffected so far, thanks to a ₹15-crore project taken up to prevent flooding of its premises as in previous years and suspension of operations. It involved construction of two bridges over the Chengalthodu Canal, widening of diversionary channels and formation of a regulator-cum-bridge.