A red alert was declared in eight districts of Kerala on Thursday by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) as rains continued to lash various parts of the state and disrupted the day-to-day lives of the people.
IMD issued a red alert for the day in the districts of Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad and Kannur and Orange alert in remaining districts except for Thiruvananthapuram where a yellow alert is in place.
A red alert indicates heavy to extremely heavy rains of over 20 cm in 24 hours, while orange alert means very heavy rains of 6 cm to 20 cm. A yellow alert means heavy rainfall between 6 and 11 cm.
The inclement weather in the state resulted in water levels of various rivers—like Chalakkudi, Pampa, Manimala and Achankovil—in various districts rising close to or crossing danger levels.
As the rains intensified in the state and in anticipation of water in Chalakkudi river rising further, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan warned residents along its banks and those in low-lying areas of Thrissur and Ernakulam districts to be cautious and to be ready to evacuate as per instructions of the authorities.
The Chalakkudi river level is increasing due to release of water from Peringalkuthu dam which had to open some of its shutters due to heavy rainfall in its catchment area and around 16,000 cusecs of water coming from Tamil Nadu, Thrissur district officials said, adding that people on the river's banks and nearby areas have been shifted to relief camps.
With the shutters of Chimmini dam also to be raised further in view of the heavy rains in Thrissur district, the water in Kurumali river—which is already above warning level—is expected to rise further, officials said.
The heavy rains also caused landslides in some parts of the state which also affected road traffic.
The roof of an anganwadi building collapsed in Konni taluk of Pathanamthitta district, officials said and added that there were no casualties.
In Kozhikode, the bad weather led to five flights from the Middle East which were bound to Calicut Airport being diverted to Cochin International Airport.
Air Arabia flights from Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, Gulf Air flight from Bahrain, Air India Express flight from Abu Dhabi and Qatar Airways flight from Doha were those diverted to Cochin, the Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) said.
A statement issued by the chief minister's office (CMO) said that six major dams— Ponmudi, Lower Periyar, Kallarkutty, Erattayar and Kundala in Idukki and Moozhiyar in Pathanamthitta districts—have reached red alert water storage levels.
The CMO statement also advised the public to completely avoid night travel to hilly areas, those living near rivers, lakes and disaster prone areas to shift to relief camps, avoid going near rivers with high water levels and emergency kits should be kept ready at homes.
It further said that fake news should not be spread and for emergency help, the district disaster management authority's toll-free number 1077 was available.
Meanwhile, state Health Minister Veena George advised extreme caution against infectious diseases in view of the heavy rainfall in the state.
A holiday was declared for schools and educational institutions in various districts of the state a day ago in view of the rains, but in Ernakulam the announcement was made only after 8 AM on Thursday, leading to many students turning up in schools and then having to be sent back home.
It led to widespread criticism of the Ernakulam district collector on social media.
Meanwhile, the central Meteorological Department has predicted widespread rains in Kerala from August 4 to 8.
Landslides and flash floods in Kerala triggered by heavy rains killed 18 people in the last few days, damaged hundreds of properties and displaced thousands to relief camps, the state government had said on Wednesday.