Death toll in rain-battered Kerala rise to 23
The death toll in rain-battered Kerala rose to 23 as rescue workers retrieved the bodies of more victims of landslides on Sunday in Kottayam and Idukki, two of the worst-affected districts where about half a dozen people are still missing.
While four people, including a child, were confirmed dead at Kuttikkal in Kottayam district on Saturday, rescue workers unearthed more bodies on Sunday when it was confirmed that six members of a family were among those dead in a massive landslide that washed away several houses in the area.
The members of the family were identified as Claramma Joseph, 65, her son Martin, 48, his wife, Sini, 37, and their daughters Sona, 11, Sneha, 13, and Sandra, 9. The bodies of Claramma, Sini and Sona were dug out on Saturday before heavy rain and darkness hindered the operation.
At least four more people who lived in three houses next to Martin’s are yet to be accounted for.
Four bodies were recovered on Sunday from Plapilly, adjacent to Kuttikkal, which witnessed a massive landslide on Saturday. The deceased were identified as Sony, 45, her son Alan, 8, Sarasamma, 58, and Roshni, 50.
Six bodies were retrieved at Kokkayar in Idukki where a landslide washed away several houses. They have been identified as Fauzia, 28, her children Amin, 7, Amna, 6, children from their neighbouring family identified as Afzan, 8, and Ahiyan, 4, and a man named Shaji, 55. The body of a person identified as Joy, 44, was found floating in a nearby river earlier in the day. Local people had rescued 17 from the spot soon after a landslide on Saturday.
A man named Nikhil and his colleague Nima had drowned at Thodupuzha in Idukki on Saturday as their car was washed away after they accidentally drove off a bridge into a swollen river.
In a big relief to the rescue work, the rain has abated and no district is under red alert. Six districts — Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad and Pathanamthitta — were put on red alert on Saturday as heavy rain triggered flash floods and landslides along the Western Ghats.
The India Meteorological Department placed Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kozhikode and Malappuram on yellow alert for Sunday as more rain are forecast in these districts.
The weather update on Sunday evening predicted more rain from Wednesday.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan cautioned people against venturing out unnecessarily as strong winds, thunder and lightning were predicted.
He said in a statement that over 2,000 residents of the worst-hit areas had been moved to 105 shelters that started functioning on Sunday. They have been instructed to follow Covid protocols as the state was still grappling with the second wave.
The chief minister said National Disaster Response Force teams had been deployed in Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Malappuram districts. Instructions have been issued to deploy five more teams in the affected areas. Two teams of the Indian Army, two from the Defence Security Corps, the state fire service, police and other volunteers have also been engaged in rescue and relief missions.
However, rescue work remained arduous as roads to many affected areas were damaged while swollen rivers endangered small bridges and culverts.