Rescue teams during a search operation at a flood-affected area in Kerala. Image Credit: ANI

Kottayam: At the Medical College Hospital in Kottayam, bodies had to wait for post mortem on Tuesday as torrential rains and landslips across different places in Kottayam and Idukki districts killed more than two dozen people over the past weekend.

But even as searches are in progress for the last of the missing victims by the National Disaster Relief Force, the meteorological department has forecast heavy rains on Wednesday and Thursday across the state.

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On Tuesday, Kerala also began opening up key dams in the state, foreseeing the likelihood of more torrential rains that can force an emergency opening of dams.

Orange alert

The India Meteorological Department has forecast “a fresh spell of easterly wave” to affect south Peninsular India, causing fairly widespread to widespread rainfall in Kerala. The forecast points to isolated heavy rainfall over Kerala.

IMD has predicted “very heavy” rainfall to be “very likely” over Kerala on October 20 and 21.

The state government has given an orange alert for 11 of Kerala’s 14 districts for Wednesday. The three districts that are not on the list are Kollam, Alappuzha and Kasaragod.

On Thursday, 12 districts have an orange alert. The two districts not on the list are Kannur and Kasaragod. On Friday, all districts except Kasaragod have been put on yellow alert.

Keeping in mind a repeat of the torrential rains in some districts over the past weekend, the state government has delayed the much-awaited opening of colelges to October 25.

Dams opened

The government also began opening up key dams in the state on Tuesday to avoid the situation of the dams filling up in the middle of floods, thus causing even more damage. In the devastating floods in Kerala in 2018, waters let out from the dams during flood time had added to the calamity.

The Cheruthoni dam in Idukki district, better known as the Idukki dam, was opened on Tuesday, by raising three of its five shutters.

The shutters were each raised 35 cms after giving three siren announcements, letting out roughly 100,000 litres of water per second. The water from the dam flows into the Periyar river which may see an increase in water level by 1 metre.

Idukki dam has a water level limit of 2,398.86 ft, and on Tuesday the water level had hit 2,397.96 ft. Idukki dam was last opened on August 9, 2018 in the middle of devastating floods in Kerala, and prior to that the dam was opened 26 years earlier.

Besides Idukki, the sluice gates of Idamalayar and Pampa reservoirs were also opened on Tuesday as they began filling up with the heavy rains on Saturday. The Kakki and Sholayar dams were opened earlier.

Counting losses

Meanwhile, Kottayam and Idukki districts that were most affected by Saturday’s torrential rains are still coming out of the shock of the death and destruction that led to nearly 30 lives being lost.

In Kanjirapally taluk alone, which bore the brunt of the rain and landslips on Saturday, 103 houses were totally destroyed while 223 other houses suffered partial destruction. This is excluding the loss of homes and buildings at Koottickal, where assessment of the damage is still under way.

Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at Koottickal on Monday when six members of a family – Claramma Ottalankal, 65, her son Martin, 48, his wife Siny, 45 and their three daughters Sneha, 14, Sona, 12 and Sandra, 10 – were laid to rest in two tombs at the Kavali St Mary’s Church.

There have also been issues of missing bodies or bodies being mixed up. The family members of Alan Joby, 14 who went missing in the landslide at Plapally near Mundakayam, said the body given to them was not that of Alan. They suspect it is of a more senior person, fueling doubts that the body is of someone who is yet to be reported missing.