Kochi: The Cochin International Airport was on Wednesday closed till Saturday afternoon after water released from the Idukki dam flooded the area.
Airport Director A.C.K. Nair called the development "unprecedented".
"Why we decided to take this step is because since last night dams like Idukki, Mullaperiyar, Idamalayar have opened their shutters. The water released reaches the Periyar river and one of its tributaries flows close to the airport and it is overflowing, sending the waters to our operational area," said Nair.
He pointed out that with more rains predicted in the coming days, it was decided to close down the airport operations.
"Once the water recedes, it will take us 24 hours to clean up the area. Then only flights will resume. If the water level recedes faster than expected, then things might change. As of now we have decided to close down the airport till 2 p.m. of August 18," said Nair.
The scene inside the flooded Cochin International Airport after the opening of Idamalayar, Cheruthoni and Mullaperiyar dam shutters on Wednesday. Reuters
Cochin airport is one of the three international airports in the state, besides being the busiest. It handled 10 million passengers during the 2017-18 fiscal.
5.30 AM 15-08-18
Operations suspended to/from Cochin International Airport till 1400 hrs...due to flood level in and around Airport.
CIAL PR@CC— Kochi Airport (@KochiAirport) August 15, 2018
The airport is situated near the Periyar river bank.
A check of flight status at Cochin International Airport on Wednesday morning shows a number of international and domestic flights either cancelled or "indefinitely delayed" for both inbound and outbound flights.
Several inbound flights had been diverted to nearby cities.
"Operations suspended to/from Cochin International Airport till 1400 hrs.due to flood level in and around Airport," an airport spokesperson said this morning.
The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), which decided to suspend the arrival operations at 4 am to 7 am today as a precautionary measure, took the decision to shut the airport till afternoon after reviewing the situation.
Torrential rains, overflowing rivers and a series of landslides have claimed 44 lives in Kerala.
(With inputs from News Agencies)
Kerala tries to open Kochi Naval Base airport for passenger flights
Kerala is exploring the possibility of opening Kochi Naval Base airport to passenger aircraft to ease the inconvenient caused following the closure of Cochin International Airport from Wednesday to Saturday.
Rescue officials assist villagers out of a flooded area, following heavy rainfall, near Kochi. PTI
“Small passenger flights can land at the old airport in the Naval Base and CIAL (Cochin International Airport Ltd) is talking to airlines [to explore this option],” Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Chief Minister, said during a press conference in the state capital Thiruvananathapuram late on Wednesday.
Many airlines have diverted services to faraway cities like Mumbai, causing hardship to travelers, said the chief minister. Airlines should try to divert planes to nearby airports such as Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhicode, Pinarayi Vijayan said.
UAE airlines ask passengers to check for changes
The UAE-based airlines have advised the passengers travelling to and from Kochi in the next four days to contact them for changes in the booking following the cancellation of all flights after the closure of the airport due to heavy rains and flooding.
Etihad inbound and outbound flights to Kochi have been cancelled and guests are being provided alternative flights or accommodation where needed, an Etihad spokesperson said.
Etihad Airways Guest Control team is assisting guests with rebooking and their onward travel arrangements.
“We apologise for any inconvenience this unexpected delay may have caused,” the spokesperson said.
For further information, passengers can call the Etihad Airways Contact Centre at +971 (0) 2599 0000.
According to an Emirates spokesperson, all Emirates flights from Wednesday to Saturday (18th August) have been cancelled. “Affected customers are advised to contact their travel agent or Emirates booking office to make changes to their bookings. Emirates apologises for any inconvenience caused,” the spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Flydubai said all Flydubai flights to and from Kochi will operate to Thiruvananthapuram International Airport (TRV). “Passengers who have purchased tickets for travel to or from Kochi during this period are being contacted. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our passengers’ travel schedules as a result of the adverse weather conditions,” said a Flydubai spokesperson.
By Binsal Abdul Kader, Senior Reporter
Flood situation severe in Kerala
The flood situation in the southern state of Kerala further worsened with many areas inundated and flight operations suspended till Saturday at Kochi airport, as the toll rose to 67 with rain fury claiming 25 lives on Wednesday.
Officials said a red alert has been sounded in all the 14 districts of the state.
Rescuers evacuate people from a flood-hit locality, in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. PTI
From Kasaragod in the north to Thiruvananthapuram in the south, all rivers are in spate and shutters of 35 dams, including Mullaperiyar, have been opened.
The toll in rain-related incidents since August 8 mounted to 67 with 25 deaths reported today, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.
Eleven deaths were reported from Malappuram alone, officials said.
Vijayan said the heavy rains would continue for some more days, which will further worsen the situation.
More than 1,50,000 people have been lodged in relief across the state, he said.
Of the 14 districts, as many as 11 including Idukki, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram, Pathanamthitta, Kannur and Ernakulam are on red alert, an official euphemism to mean that huge devastation was expected.
Pampa Manalpuram on the foothills of Sabarimala gets flooded following heavy rain, in Pathanamthitta. PTI
Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts are on orange alert, asking the authorities and people to be prepared as there was a higher likelihood of bad weather.
Those reported dead on Wednesday included a couple in Malappuram who were crushed after their house crumbled. Their six-year-old child is missing.
A person died in a Munnar lodge as it crashed. A 70-year-old woman near Pathanamthitta was electrocuted as her house was submerged. Landslides in Malappuram claimed lives too.
In a first, sluice gates of 33 dams across Kerala have been opened, following incessant rains since late Tuesday. More rains have been forecast till Saturday.
More and more people are pouring into relief camps, including those who had earlier returned to their homes in Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Wayanad districts.
The capital district on Wednesday witnessed heavy rains, submerging several low lying areas. Officials hurriedly opened 14 relief camps.
Rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an inflatable boat from a flooded area at Muppathadam near Eloor in Kochi. AFP
The famed tourist destination in Munnar has been closed for traffic, following flooding at the Old Munnar town.
The Sabarimala temple has warned pilgrims not to reach the shrine in view of the surging river waters in the vicinity.
Although special prayers were listed for Wednesday, the temple was closed to devotees as the river Pamba was in spate.
On Wednesday, Chief Minister Vijayan took the Independence Day salute despite rains here and urged everyone to contribute generously to overcome the challenge of the floods and its destruction.
The Idukki dam floodgates were reopened late on Tuesday as the water level in the Periyar river and its tributaries flowing through Ernakulam and Thrissur districts rose menacingly.
The shutters of the Mullaperiyar dam were opened at 2.35 a.m. after its water level crossed 140 feet.
People living in and around the dam were evacuated late on Tuesday.
Navy to the rescue
A defence spokesperson said the Southern Naval Command has diverted its vessel INS Kalpeni to 12 nautical miles off Alappuzha Coast to rescue the crew of a fishing boat reportedly in danger after water entered it.
"A helicopter is also being launched for search and rescue, weather permitting," he said.
So far, the Navy has rescued more than 80 persons.
As part of its 'Operation Madad', the Southern Naval Command deployed 21 rescue and diving teams with Gemini boats as the situation deteriorated across the southern state.
"A total of four teams went out (on Wednesday) to augment those already deployed. More than 81 persons were rescued, many of whom were also provided food and shelter by setting up a rescue camp," an Indian Navy spokesperson said.
Flooding was reported near Varapuzha residential area, Aluva and hence a primary school has been converted into a relief camp by the Naval Armament Depot (NAD) wherein relocation of rescued persons was in progress.
Meals and lodging for survivors have been arranged from pooled resources of the Defence Services Corps (DSC), NAD and the civil administration. A clinic has also been set up with civil assistance for providing first aid to the rescued.
Three columns of relief teams have been put on standby at a naval base in Kochi to meet any other contingency.
Also, naval hospital INHS Sanjivani is on a standby with medical packages while INS Venduruthy is standing by for setting up community kitchens.
Over 1,000 people living on the banks of Periyar river have been shifted to relief camps as a precautionary measure after the Mullaperiyar dam's shutters were opened and water released through spillway early this morning.
Though initially 13 shutters of the dam were opened early by 4.30 am, three were closed and discharge through the spillway reduced to 3,480 cusecs.
The water level in the dam has touched 140 feet against its maximum level of 142 feet.
Many parts of Thiruvananthapuram are also receiving heavy rains since early this morning.
Unabated rains have forced the state government to do away with the official 'Onam' celebrations and the amount set apart for the purpose would be utilised for relief operations.
Governor P Sathasivam also decided to cancel the reception to be hosted by him today as part of Independence Day celebrations due to the floods in the state.
Ayyappa devotees have been asked not to visit the hill shrine at Sabarimala as the rain-fed Pampa rose menacingly.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the shrine, the district authorities and the police have issued alerts to devotees and decided to stop them at various points till the water receded.
PM tweets support
Prime Minister Narednra Modi on Wednesday spoke to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on phone and took stock of the flood situation in the state, besides assuring him of providing "any assistance needed".
Had a detailed discussion with Kerala CM Shri Pinarayi Vijayan regarding the unfortunate flood situation in the state. Centre stands firmly with the people of Kerala and is ready to provide any assistance needed. @CMOKerala— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 15, 2018
"Had a detailed discussion with Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan regarding the unfortunate flood situation in the state. Centre stands firmly with the people of Kerala and is ready to provide any assistance needed," Modi tweeted.