High alert was sounded in Kerala on Friday as heavy rains continued unabated across the state and huge tidal waves disrupted the lives along the low-lying coastal areas. The Indian Metrological Department (IMD) on Friday evening said that the low-pressure area in the south-eastern Arabian Sea intensified into a severe depression. This may intensify into cyclonic storm Tauktae in the next few hours.
Even though Kerala is not in the predicted path of the cyclone, heavy rains, strong winds and strong sea gusts are expected till May 16.
Authorities swung into action opening relief camps and shifting people living in low-lying areas to safer places as high waves and sea incursion damaged several houses in coastal hamlets of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam districts since Thursday night. They, however, said in many places people seemed reluctant to move to relief camps in the wake of the COVID-19 situation.
In some coastal pockets, tidal waves entered the seaside areas, exposing coastal villages to high tides and flooding. Chellanam, a coastal village in Ernakulam, was one of the several places which suffered the wrath of rough seasince Thursday. Several houses were damaged as sea water seeped in due to high tidal waves, local people complained.
Sea erosion was reported at Velinakode in Ponnani in Malappuram district and Kasaba in Kozhikode.
The IMD has extended its red alert for Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Ernakulam and orange alert in Kottayam, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad districts on Friday, foreseeing heavy rains across Kerala.
The IMD has also sounded red alert in Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur, Kasaragod and orange alert in Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki and Thrissur districts on Saturday, indicating the possibility of extremely heavy rains under the influence of the severe depression over the Arabian Sea.
A red alert indicates extremely heavy rainfall – more than 204 millimetres of rain in 24 hours, orange alert means heavy to very heavy rainfall ranging from 115.6mm to 204.4mm, and a yellow alert warns of rainfall ranging from 64.5mm to 115 mm.
May 14: Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Ernakulam
May 15: Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur, and Kasaragod
May 14: Kottayam, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad
May 15: Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki and Thrissur
May 16: Idukki, Ernakulam and Malappuram
May 14: Kasaragod and Kannur
May 15: Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad
May 16: Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod
May 17: Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur and Malappuram
May 18: Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Idukki
'State is prepared'
During his sunset press briefing in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala Chief Minster Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday said the state is fully prepared to face any situation arising out of the cyclonic storm.
"The state is fully geared to face the heavy rains with extra forces already arriving in the state including with helicopters," he added.
The chief minister said, we should exercise utmost caution in districts and adjoining districts where the Meteorological Department has issued red and orange alerts.
"The cyclone is developing and moving faster than expected. It is likely to move north from the Kerala coast by Saturday. The northern districts of Kannur and Kasaragod are most likely to be affected by the winds. Winds are also expected in nearby districts. Therefore, it is important to be prepared," Vijayan told reporters.
He said steps have been also taken to relocate the vulnerable people in all the places.
"People should be prepared to move to camps set up by the local bodies and the Revenue Department as per the instructions of the Disaster Management Authority. Extensive preparations have been made. Central and State forces are ready to deal with any emergency," he said.
Nine teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in Kollam, Alappuzha, Idukki, Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad districts.
Vijayan said the Army Defence Service Corps has deployed one team to Kasargod and two teams to Kannur.
"Two teams of the Army are on standby in Thiruvananthapuram. An engineering task force is also ready in Bengaluru. Two Air Force helicopters are on standby. They will be assisted by State police, fire brigade and trained civil defence volunteers," he said.
The Chief Minister said fisherman should not venture into the sea till further notice.
He said the formation and development of low pressure were being closely monitored by the Emergency Operations Centre of the State Disaster Management Authority. Further information would be communicated to the public in a timely manner.
The control rooms of the District Disaster Management Authorities are open throughout the day, the chief minister said.
The chief minister also cautioned that with heavy rains expected till May 16, all should ensure that they keep their surroundings of homes clean and Sunday should be used for this, as along with the rains, come diseases.
Earlier in the day, IMD had warned that the low pressure area over the Arabian Sea might intensify into a cyclonic storm in 24 hours and would move towards Gujarat coast, triggering heavy rain across Kerala.
The low pressure area will intensify into a deep depression in the next 12 hours. The deep depression is likely to form a cyclonic storm in another 12 hours. The cyclone is likely to be formed near the Lakshadweep islands by Sunday and will move in the north-westerly direction, it had said.
Once formed, it will be known as Cyclone Tauktae.
Nine NDRF teams deployed
According to Rekha Nambiar, Commandant, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), as a precautionary measure, nine teams of NDRF have been sent to Kerala.
"In Wayanad and Idukki districts, which are prone to landslides, we have sent equipment which would be required in case of landslides," she said.
She also said they were taking all precautions in view of COVID-19.
"The personnel have been scanned and we have ensured that they do not have any comorbidity symptoms. While engaging in rescue operations, they will be taking all precautions," Nambiar told a TV channel.
Authorities have banned fishing in the sea till the situation becomes normal.
The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) has urged people living in landslide prone areas and coastal areas to take all precautions.
Various district administrations have opened control rooms at the district, taluk and panchayat levels to coordinate relief operations in view of heavy rains.