The toll in flood and landslides in Kerala triggered by a low-pressure area that outlived its stay over the Arabian Sea is feared to have risen to 13 even as relief and rescue teams recovered 10 more bodies in worst-hit Koottikkal village in Kottayam district.
Search is on for at least eight more persons in neighbouring Kokkayar area the day after, as Sunday revealed the expanse of damage inflicted to some of the scenic villages in the midlands of the state.
Amit Shah offers help
Union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted that “we are continuously watching the situation in parts of Kerala in the wake of heavy rainfall and flooding. The Central Government will provide all possible support to help people in need. NDRF teams have already been sent to assist the rescue operations.”
The flood waters are receding but they must drain out along the rivers and rivulets into the low-lying and water-bound ‘rice basket’ of Kuttanad threatening more potential flooding of the area and damage to standing crops.
Flood threat to Kuttanad
India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that the weather-triggering ‘low’ has weakened in strength but an associated trough lies along the Kerala and Karnataka coasts that may continue to tigger moderate to heavy rain for the rest of today (Sunday).
Speaking in New Delhi, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director-General, IMD, ruled out possibility of cloud bursts wreaking the havoc but attributed floods and landslide to high winds and heavy rain of up to 30 cm at various places, kicked up by the untimely ‘low’ that treaded the rarely-taken East-South-East track towards the Kerala coast to dump its voluminous contents over an unsuspecting landscape.
Counterpart ‘low’ holds up
On Sunday morning, a counterpart ‘low’ was parked over over North Telangana, and which is likely to move generally towards West Uttar Pradesh during next 2-3 days. Isolated heavy rainfall has been predicted over South Odisha, Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh.
Towards the North-West, a western disturbance lies over South Afghanistan, which may start to interact with strong easterlies blowing in from Telangana. This will set off light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places over Uttarakhand for next three days; over Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh for two days; and over Haryana and Chandigarh and East Rajasthan today (Sunday).
Earlier on Saturday, the killer low-pressure area over South-East Arabian Sea in concert with a counterpart over the Bay of Bengal created in parts of Kerala scenes straight out of the Great Flood of 2018 in parts of Kerala.
Torrential rain during the day triggered what are thought to be a series of cloud bursts of various intensities (ruled out since by the IMD) along the border of the worst-hit Kottayam and Idukki districts in Central Kerala, setting off floods and landslides.
Houses, farm lands swept away
Entires areas of fertile agriculture lands where mainly plantation crops are grown along with houses and settlements were swept away by the flash floods of a ferocity not witnessed even during 2018, according to eye witnesses and survivors.
In fact, some areas witnessed catastrophe of a scale even elders are not able to recall from living memory. Rivers, rivulets and even small streams suddenly breached their banks with bewildering frequency and converted themselves into calamitous torrents engulfing broad swathes with floodwaters reaching up to rooftop levels in the rural backyard of Kottayam nesting along the plains and foothills of the lofty Western Ghats.
In no time, their homesteads had been reduced to a ravaged geography of mounds for loose earth, huge boulders, rubble, and running streams of water erupting from nowhere.
NDRF, Army deployed
NDRF teams have already been deployed for rescue and relief operations in Pathanamthitta, Idukki, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Malappuram districts. The weather has cleared more or less today (Sunday) but intervening rain spells are not ruled out. A team of Army each is on duty in Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam districts and while that of Defence Security Corps is on guard in Thiruvananthapuram and Wayanad. The Air Force and the Navy too have been out on alert.
Meanwhile, the Kerala State Electricity Board, which owns and operates a number of large dams or reservoirs in the state, has called for an emergency meeting later in the day to decide on opening of their shutters as inflows continue.
A yellow alert for moderate to heavy rainfall is valid today (Sunday) for Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Malappuram districts which house some of the major dams including Idukki, Kakki and Idamalayar.