Kerala braces for more rains; red alert in two districts, dam gates opened

By Najiya O,

Kozhikode: One month after the deadly floods of August, Kerala is bracing for more rains. Following the prediction of heavy to very heavy rains after October 5 by the India Meteorological Department, several dams have been opened in the state. Teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been deployed in six districts and the state has asked for more forces. Red alert has been issued in the districts of Idukki and Malappuram.

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The central and state meteorological departments have warned of heavy (7-11 cms) to very heavy (12-21 cms) rains from October 6 to 11 in the state, following the low pressure area formed in the Arabian Sea. However, there are also reports that the cyclonic winds predicted to move towards Kerala may divert towards Oman region. And hence, the warning of cyclone has been removed, though heavy winds will still be there along with rain. Orange alert has been issued in three districts (Pathanamthitta, Palakkad and Wayanad) and yellow alert in six districts for October 6 and 7. After the deadly deluge in August, Kerala had received little rainfall in September.

Teams of the NDRF have been deployed in Wayanad, Palakkad, Kozhikkode, Malappuram, Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts. Two teams have been kept in reserve at the Thrissur Regional Response Centre. The state has also requested for 10 more units of the NDRF if needed, which are ready at Arakkonam, Tamil Nadu.

One of the five shutters of the Cheruthoni dam in the Idukki reservoir was opened at 11 am on Saturday letting out 50 cusecs of water per second. The chairman of the Kerala State Electricity Board informed media that the shutter was being opened as part of precaution, and that the water levels were being monitored every hour. Idukki district Collector has warned the people living on the banks of the Cheruthoni and Periyar rivers to be cautious. Though water level is low in some dams, they too have been opened foreseeing them getting full by the rains to come. There have been accusations that the floods in August were intensified by the mismanagement of dams, which has reportedly resulted in prior opening of the shutters before the rains get heavy. Only one shutter of the Cheruthoni dam was opened on August 9, and all the five had to be opened in the coming days as rains got heavier. The opening of all shutters in several dams has been alleged to be the reason for the intensification of the floods which led to widespread destruction and loss of life and property. The shutters of the Malampuzha dam in Palakkad district were opened on Thursday itself following heavy rains in the catchment area on Wednesday night. Having opened them during the heavy rains in August, the shutters were closed down only on September 10.

Meanwhile, a landslide that took place in the forest area has led to heavy flow of mountainous water in the Kannappankund area in Kozhikode. Water from the hills rushed to the dried up river in Kannappankund on Friday afternoon even as the weather was clear and cloudless. The water flow was heavy for nearly 2 hours. It also rained heavily there for nearly two hours, adding to the fear of the local people. The region had witnessed ravaging landslides and floods in August which forced at least 25 families to shift from their homes.

The state has also warned fishermen not to go out into the sea, and asked those who have already gone to the sea to come back.

Several parts of the state, especially in the districts of Idukki and Pathanamthitta, have been receiving medium to heavy rainfall for the past few days. Water level in the Pamaba river has gone up. Southern town of Chalakkudy had received very heavy cyclonic rain early this week in which the town was flooded, several trees fell down and metal sheets used as roof for shops flew away.

Nearly 500 people had lost their lives in the deadly monsoon this year in Kerala. The rains wreaked havoc especially in August, flooding large parts of the state. Landslides too played their part in taking lives and making life difficult. The loss to the state has been estimated at more than Rs 30,000 crores. There have also been controversies associated with the flood regarding the central aid to the state (which the state alleged was very less) and the case of accepting foreign aid (which the center refused). The way Kerala faced the floods, especially the rescue and relief missions, have been praised from several corners.