Kerala floods
Flood water gushes through low-lying areas triggered by heavy incessant rains at Ranni, in Pathanamthitta on Saturday, October 16, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala was still counting its dead on Sunday after torrential rains and landslips wreaked havoc on Saturday, mainly in Kottayam and Idukki districts.

On Sunday, three more bodies – all three of them children – were recovered from Kokkayar in Idukki, taking the total number of bodies recovered to 19. Searches are on for five more bodies at Kokkayar, using dog squads and earth moving equipment as the landslide has knocked down houses and partially buried some of the buildings.

In Kavali and Plappally near Koottikkal, seven bodies were recovered, including those of six members of a single family. The deceased members of the six-member family were identified as Ottalankal Claramma Joseph, 73, her son Martin, 47, his wife Siny, 35 and their three daughters Senha, 13, Sona, 11, and Sandra, 9.

Across a wide area

Saturday’s downpour and landslips devastated multiple spots across the two districts, including small towns like Mundakayam, Kanjirapally, Peruvanthanam, Manimala and Erumely.

Read more

Across the area, dozens of houses were inundated in floodwaters, while rows of shops were submerged within a few hours, giving little time for shopkeepers to remove their wares to safer places.

“Within a few hours, the waters had entered the shop, submerging the freezers, the generator and hundreds of thousands of rupees worth of food products,” Renju Taliat, a trader in Kanjirapally told Gulf News. It took shopkeepers in Kanjirapally by surprise since no such flash flood has been reported there.

IAF kerala floods
Indian Air Force medium-lift helicopters have been inducted for flood relief efforts in districts of Kerala inundated due to heavy rains, in Kochi on Sunday, October 17, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Several other shopkeepers also lost their stocks as water rushed in within a few hours. In some cases, the entire stock of clothes were damaged in textile shops, while cement and fertilizer stocks were destroyed in other shops.

NDRF team deployed

The National Disaster Response Force was deployed in the two districts to coordinate rescue operations, and the Indian Air Force was kept on standby as floodwaters cut off road access in different locations.

The torrential rain and flash flooding were attributed to a low pressure system in the southeast Arabian Sea. On Sunday, the India Meteorological Department said the low pressure system had weakened.

Across multiple districts

Though Kottayam and Idukki bore the brunt, the torrential rains affected a majority of Kerala’s 14 districts.

Kerala floods
Flood water gushes through low-lying areas triggered by heavy incessant rains at Ranni, in Pathanamthitta on Saturday, October 16, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

In Alappuzha district, 11 relief camps were opened as Kuttanad and other low-lying areas were on edge following a rise in water levels. In Thrissur, night traffic in the high range areas of the district was banned until October 18, and in Palakkad district shutters of the Malampuzha, Aliyar, Pothundi and Chulliyar dams were opened.

Car with two washed away

In Thodupuzha, a car with two people was washed away, killing both of them. The deceased were identified as Nikhil Unnikrishnan, 30, and Nima K. Vijayan, 28. The incident happened near Kanjar on Saturday.

Local media reported that the two were warned not to cross a bridge on a swollen river but they went ahead. When a sudden burst of water tossed the car in the waters, they tried to get out of the car and were washed away. Their bodies were recovered within a few hours.

Stranded tourists

The landslips and flooding left hundreds of weekend domestic tourists stranded. Kerala’s tourism destinations have been picking up after nearly one-and-half years of shutdown owing to COVID-19, and hundreds of tourists had travelled to hill destinations like Kuttikanam, Thekkady and Munnar for the weekend when the torrential rains began.

Many of them could find routes without flooding to get back home as waters began receding on Sunday with a let up in rainfall.