Death toll rises to 44, Cochin airport remains shut as heavy rains continue

Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi: The death toll in Kerala has risen to 44 as there is no let up in heavy rains, and the 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 8 August.

In Munnar, a man hailing from neighbouring Tamilnadu was killed and six persons were rescued after a mound of earth fell on a hotel last evening, official sources said.

In a similar incident in Kondotty, a heavy mound of earth fell onto a concrete house at 1 am today, claiming a couple’s life.

A search is on for their six-year-old child who was asleep in the same room with them, district authorities said.

A fisherman was electrocuted in Thrissur as he came in touch with a snapped electric wire. Kochi airport operations have been temporarily suspended till Saturday 2 pm since the inflow of water is still on a rising trend, a Kochi airport spokesperson said.

“We are working hard to drain out the stormwater. All are requested to cooperate,” the spokesperson said.

The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), which decided to suspend the arrival operations at 4 am to 7 am today as a precautionary measure, had earlier said the airport would be shut till 2 pm.

It later issued another advisory saying the operations have been suspended till Saturday. Weathermen have warned of heavy rains accompanied with gusty winds with speed reaching 60 kmph in all the 14 districts.

With almost all rivers in spate, reports of landslides have come in from Malappuram and Munnar in Idukki this morning. A Defence spokesperson said the Southern Naval Command has diverted its vessel INS Kalpeni to 12 nautical miles off Alappuzha Coast to rescue the crew of a fishing boat reportedly in danger after water entered it.

“A helicopter is also being launched for search and rescue, weather permitting,” he said.

Over 1,000 people living on the banks of Periyar river have been shifted to relief camps as a precautionary measure after the Mullaperiyar dam’s shutters were opened and water released through spillway early this morning.

Though initially 13 shutters of the dam were opened early by 4.30 am, three were closed and discharge through the spillway reduced to 3,480 cusecs. The water level in the dam has touched 140 feet against its maximum level of 142 feet.

Many parts of Thiruvananthapuram are also receiving heavy rains since early this morning. Unabated rains have forced the state government to do away with the official ‘Onam‘ celebrations and the amount set apart for the purpose would be utilised for relief operations.

Governor P Sathasivam also decided to cancel the reception to be hosted by him today as part of Independence Day celebrations due to the floods in the state.

Ayyappa devotees have been asked not to visit the hill shrine at Sabarimala as the rain-fed Pampa rose menacingly.

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the shrine, the district authorities and the police have issued alerts to devotees and decided to stop them at various points till the water receded.