Kerala floods toll reaches 180, rescue operations continue

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Thiruvananthapuram : The death toll due to the floods across Kerala increased to 180 on Saturday with rescue operations continuing at several locations in the rain-ravaged state, authorities said.

The toll rose with 10 deaths reported on Saturday from Ernakulam, Thrissur and Chengannur districts.

The worst affected places include Aluva, Chalakudy, Chengannur, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta.

The rains that began on August 9 rendering lakhs homeless, destroying property worth millions, subsided on Saturday and as a result, the water level in big dams in Idukki has also come down, but the flood gates continue to let out the waters.

Speaking to the media, state Food Minister P. Thilothaman, who is camping at Chengannur, said: "One thing I can say is that the numbers are big and the need of the hour is that people here require food packets and drinking water. About 15 small boats of the Navy are expected. But the problem is after dusk when no rescue operations are possible. Helicopters are also needed for faster evacuation."

Meanwhile anger is mounting across Kerala as the coordination of rescue activities has gone haywire due to the magnitude of the problem.

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told the media that efforts of the state government have failed.

"I have been flooded with calls and even now thousands of people are still stranded. The Chief Minister dismissed with contempt when I said earlier this week that the rescue and relief operations should be handed over to the Army. I do not want to blame, but it has now proved beyond doubt that the state government has failed," said Chennithala.

Saturday saw more number of fishing boats from various places reaching the affected areas.

Alappuzha district Police Superintendent A.P. Surendran said: "Things today are moving fast and helicopters and more number of boats are pressed into service and we are confident that we will be able to rescue more stranded people."

The situation in Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad and Wayanad appears to be better too, with the rain slowing down.

Railway services between Ernakulam and Thrissur remained suspended. Long-distance trains were diverted via the Nagercoil route.

Certain blocks on the Thrissur-Palakkad highway were cleared for traffic. With Army personnel working hard, the roads to the famed tourist destination of Munnar are also getting cleared .

Kerala is facing the heaviest rains and consequent floods and destruction since 1924, which the state estimates has caused a loss of over Rs 19,500 crore.