Kerala rains: Downpour,landslides claim 14 lives, Kochi airport closed

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Idukki/Kochi: Fourteen persons died on Monday and several reported missing in landslides triggered by heavy rain in high range Idukki and adjoining districts of Kerala, forcing closure of Cochin International Airport as the runway was water-logged. Eight contingents of Army and National Disaster Relief Force have been called to speed up relief and rescue operations in Idukki and Aluva areas near Kochi where Periyar river is overflowing.
After reviewing the situation, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said 11 casualties were reported from Idukki district where 10 persons are still missing. Relief operations have been hampered since roads in Idukki were seriously damaged after 18 landslips had occurred since last night. Chandy said some 20,000 people hit by incessant rains and floods have been shifted to relief camps in Idukki as well as Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur districts. The government has allotted Rs 84 crore for urgent relief works in affected areas.
While nine lives were lost in landslips, five persons engaged in relief work were killed as a huge block of rock and rubble came crashing down on them at Chiyyampara near Adimali. Rescuers are still removing the debris using earthmovers as more people are feared to be trapped under the rubble, police said.
The sandbanks of Periyar river in Aluva, where thousands are to converge to perform the 'Balitharpanam' ritual tomorrow on the day of 'Karkitakavavu', is flooded and the Shiva temple there almost submerged. The district administrtion is seeking possibilities of alternative arrangements for the conduct of the ritual.
The Cochin International airport at nearby Nedumbassery will remain closed to traffic till tomorrow evening as taxi bays and parking bays continue to be water-logged. The airport has been closed till 3.30pm tomorrow, Airport Director A.K. C. Nair said. Though water-logging in the runway has been reduced, taxi-bays and parking bays still remained water-logged.
Air India Express sources said that at least 20-25 domestic flights and an equal number of international flights have been affected due to the closure of the airport. AIE on Monday cancelled its Kochi-Doha-Bahrain via Kozhikode and Kochi-Kuwait via Mangalore flights from Kochi and the passengers have been asked to re-book after two days. All incoming flights have been diverted to Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode and departures from Kochi have been cancelled for today, the sources added. This morning, the Saudi Airlines flight from Kochi was diverted to Chennai and the Spicejet Mumbai-Kochi flight to Coimbatore.
Heavy rains continue to lash many parts of the state and IMD has cautioned fishermen against venturing into the sea as heavy winds are expected to blow along coastal areas in the next 48 hours.
The government has decided to grant Rs 2 lakh as compensation to each of the families of those killed in rain- related incidents.
Government would take a decision on the compensation to be paid for the loss of property and crops, Chandy said.
Meanwhile, IMD said in its forecast that heavy rainfall exceeding 7 cm to very heavy rainfall exceeding 13 cm will occur at isolated places over Kerala till the morning of August 7.
In Ernakulam district, 76 relief camps have been opened so far. While 221 houses were partially damaged, 22 were estroyed.
Authorities have decided to construct 'Bali tharas' on the roadside near the Shiva temple to enable devotees perform 'Balitharpanam' on the occasion of 'Vavu Bali' on Tuesday
About 367.7 hectares of crop area have been affected, official sources said.

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