Red alert issued as flood death toll rises in Indian state

Severe flooding in the southern Indian state of Kerala has killed at least 80 people in the past week, and more heavy rain is forecast in coming days.

State Relief Commissioner P.H. Kurian said the biggest loss of life came Thursday when 10 people died in a landslide.

Boats have been deployed across the state to reach thousands of people stranded by floodwater, and fishermen had been asked to help with rescue efforts, he said.

Officials announced the entire state was subject to a red alert Wednesday, the highest level, indicating the extent of the disaster which has forced tens of thousands of people to seek shelter in relief camps.

Railway and road transport has been all but halted with railway tracks and roads submerged under water. Operations at the international airport in the city of Kochi have been suspended until Saturday due to flooding.

“Kochi Airport operations temporarily suspended till 18th Saturday 2 pm since the inflow of water is still on a rising trend. We are working hard to drain out the storm water,” said a statement posted on its website. Kochi metro operations have also been suspended until the water recedes.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has asked the defense ministry to step up relief and rescue operations in the state.

“Praying for the safety and well-being of the people of Kerala,” he tweeted.

The state has been experiencing heavy rainfall that has resulted in dams filling to capacity. Water has had to be periodically released from these dams which has resulted in severe flooding in low-lying areas.

“No dams have been damaged. We are releasing more water from the dams and that is what is causing the floods plus the rain,” said Kurian, the state relief commissioner.

Military personnel have been deployed across the state and are working on search and rescue missions. More teams from the National Disaster Response Force have also been requested to assist in evacuations.

The Indian Meteorological Department has issued a warning for heavy rainfall in the state for the next four days.