Kottayam/Idukki: The death toll from heavy rains and catastrophic landslide in Kerala rose to eight on Sunday with hard-hit areas of Kottayam and Idukki districts reeling from the devastation.
The Army, NDRF, police and the Fire Force along with the locals began rescue operations on Sunday morning at Koottickal and Kokkayar panchayats where over a dozen people are listed to be missing due to numerous landslides accompanied by heavy downpour since Saturday.
Officials said rescue operators on Sunday morning recovered four more bodies from Koottickal panchayat taking the toll to eight.
They have not been identified yet, they said.
Bodies of two women and a child were recovered from Koottickal on Saturday.
In a separate rain-related incident on Saturday, a man and a woman–both 30-years old– died as their car was swept away in the flood waters in Kanjar in Idukki district.
State Revenue Minister K Rajan, who is in Kottayam district to coordinate the rescue efforts, said the government agencies are also probing whether more people were stuck among the debris and slush or were missing.
A Defence spokesperson said an Army team that arrived at Kottayam has started a search operation for the missing persons in the debris.
“Few people are still stranded as per local sources. Presently no rains however heavily overcast. Madras Regiment from Pangode Military Station commenced the rescue operation at Kavali Village 4 km away from Koottickal, Kottayam Dist,” the spokesperson said.
A Navy chopper with relief materials has already been airborne from INS Garuda in Kochi and headed towards rain-affected areas.
Two Air Force Chopper Mi-17 arrived and were on standby at AF Station, Shangumugham, Thiruvananthapuram, she said.
Although the fury of rains have subsided, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authorities (KSDMA) said a trough of low at mean sea level now lies over Southeast adjoining East central Arabian Sea off north Kerala-Karnataka coasts and predicted possibility of light to moderate rainfall at many places with only isolated heavy rainfall over the state during next 24 hours and further decrease thereafter.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a Facebook post said relief camps have been opened in the disaster-struck regions.
He directed the authorities concerned to ensure that the camps are functioning adhering to COVID-19 health protocols.
“Those in the camps should ensure the use of masks and that social distancing is maintained. Authorities should calculate the maximum number of people who can be accommodated in the camps. The district authorities can increase the number of camps in case more people are required to be accommodated,” Vijayan said.
The high ranges of central and south Kerala have experienced almost similar to that of the situation the state faced during the time of devastating floods of 2018 and 2019.
Minister Rajan visited Kanjirappally hospital where the bodies are kept and later will go to Koottikkal.
He said the Engineering task force (ETF) from Bangalore will also reach the state soon.
“They will help us in restoring connectivity with the places where roads have been washed away,” he said.
Meanwhile, at Kokkayar, in Idukki district, the search for the seven missing people is on.
“The roads to that area were destroyed. With great difficulties, the panchayat president and the village officer managed to reach there in the night itself. Connectivity was restored yesterday night itself. The search is on but no one has been found yet,” Rajan said.
In an early morning operation, NDRF teams have rescued nearly 80 people who were stranded in waterlogged areas of Pathanamthitta district.
Weather officials said Peermade in the hill district of Idukki received 24 cm rains till 5.30 PM on Saturday.
Automatic weather stations in North Paravur reported 38mm rains, Muvattupuzha (89.5mm), Palluruthy (34 mm) and Neeleswaram in Northern Kerala district received 125.5mm of rain till 8.30 PM on Saturday, they said.