As many as 106 people died in rain-related incidents in Kerala in just one day on Thursday as the state plunged deeper into misery on Friday with hospitals facing shortage of oxygen and fuel stations running dry, officials said.
The state’s deadliest deluge in close to a century has claimed 173 lives since August 8, has dealt a body blow to the scenic state, wrecking its tourism industry, destro-ying standing crops in thousands of hectares and inflicting huge damage to infrastructure.
Flood waters from the Periyar river and its tributaries have submerged many towns in Ernakulam and Thrissur. An alarming situation has also developed in Alapuzha and Pathanamthitta districts, where roads have been completely submerged. Thousands of people are believed to be still perched on trees and rooftops, waiting to be rescued.
On Friday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Had a telephone conversation with Kerala CM Shri Pinarayi Vijayan just now. We discussed the flood situation across the state and reviewed rescue operations. Later this evening, I will be heading to Kerala to take stock of the unfortunate situation due to flooding.”
Mr Vijayan, who also spoke to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, said the situation continues to be “grave” with over 2.23 lakh people from more than 50,000 families sheltered in relief camps. At some places, people in relief shelters complained about dearth of food and drinking water.
The met office has said that rain will continue till Saturday but its intensity is expected to get less. A tweet from the chief minister’s office said, “All districts apart from Kasargod are under red alert. The meteorological department warns that heavy rains may affect these 13 districts.”
Personnel of the three armed forces, besides the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), on Friday continued evacuation of people stranded on rooftops, highlands where hills came crashing down blocking roads and cutting them off the rest of the world, and those marooned in villages that have turned into islands.
A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) spokesperson said in New Delhi that its 51 teams, out of the total 53 deployed, are operating on the ground. Two more teams will reach Kerala soon, he added.
“So far, over 4,319 people have been evacuated and 44 people have been rescued by our teams. Operations are still going on,” he said.
Officials said many private hospitals in Ernakulam district are running out of oxygen, forcing the authorities to shift patients to nearby facilities. Many had to be evacuated after flood water entered hospitals.
Quite a few petrol pumps, even in places like the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, which has escaped the monsoon fury to some extent, have run dry.
Long queues of motorists were seen at several fuel stations in Thiruvananthapuram district. The authorities have directed each of these fuel bunks to keep in reserve 3000 litres of diesel and 1000 litres of petrol at all times for relief operations.
The Kochi airport is shut with rain water flooding the runways. Several trains were either cancelled or rescheduled, sources said. Services on the Kochi Metro are, however, unaffected.
During the day, TV channels telecast disturbing visuals of a woman in labour being pulled up with the help of a rope dropped down from a Navy chopper.
The woman, whose amniotic sac was ruptured, was shifted to a Navy hospital where she gave birth to a baby boy. Both the mother and the child are doing fine, officials said.
Desperate non-resident Keralites from Australia, the US and the UK were making fervent pleas to the authorities through television channels seeking help for their dear ones.
Soumya from Australia said her parents and their relatives were stranded in Aluva for the past two days. Another said an elderly relative Mary Varghese was badly in need of an oxygen cylinder and her condition was worsening.
In a WhatsApp video, a stranded woman with her six-year-old child was seen pleading for help. “We have no food or water. Please help us.”