Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi/Kozhikode: Torrential rains accompanied by fierce winds and high tidal waves wreaked havoc and claimed two lives in Kerala, as it lashed the state since last night forcing the government to shift hundreds of families to relief camps.
The southernmost district, Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod in the northern tip, witnessed widespread uprooting of trees, water-logging and disruption of power supply since last night.
The Central Water Commission (CWC) issued flood warning to the state in the wake of rising water level in rivers like Manimala and Achankovil. As the water level in major rivers like Meenachil, Achankovil and Manimala was rising steadily, authorities cautioned people living on its banks to be vigilant.
The shutters of the Kallarkutty and Malankara dams in Idukki and Bhoothathankettu dam in Ernakulam were opened and that of the Maniyar in Pathanamthitta and Aruvikkara in Thiruvananthapuram were raised as a precautionary measure following high inflow in the catchment area.
As the India Meteorological Department (IMD) sounded 'red alert', indicating the possibility of extremely heavy rainfall above 204 mm in 24 hours, in 9 districts, the entire state was high vigil.
The 'red alert', in view of the severe deep depression over Arabian sea, was issued in Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod district on Saturday.
IMD alerts for Sunday
• Orange alert in Malappuram, Palakkad, Ernakulam, and Idukki districts.
• Yellow alert in Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kollam, and Thiruvananthapuram districts.
Houses destroyed, lives disrupted
High range and coastal belts in the central and northern districts, where houses and roads were rampantly destroyed and trees got uprooted widely, were the worst affected in the rain fury.
To ensure the safety of people, night travel in high range Idukki district was completely banned till 7am Sunday by the district administration.
Heavy rains and gusty winds, accompanied by extensive sea incursion, continued to cause widespread destruction in the coastal hamlets of Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Malappuram districts.
Valiyathura pier, one of the oldest sea bridges in the state located here, developed a crack in the strong winds which hit the shores since last night.
A portion of the over 200 metre-long structure, which offers a breathtaking view of the sea, seemed tilted to a side in the morning, locals said.
Besides Chellanam in Ernakulam district, rough sea and high tidal waves wreaked havoc in Kaipamangalam, Chavakkad and Kodungallur in Thrissur, Pallithura in Thiruvananthapuram, Thrikkannapuzha in Alappuzha and Beypore and Koyilandy in Kozhikode districts.
Hundreds of houses were damaged in coastal belts across the state as sea water seeped in following high waves.
Heavy rains to continue next 24 hours
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the impact of cyclone Tauktae was expected to last the next 24 hours in the state.
"Two days of torrential rains and strong winds have caused widespread destruction across the state. As per the IMD figures, Kerala received an average rainfall of 145.5 mm in the last two days alone," he told reporters during his customary press meet on Saturday evening.
Kochi and Peerumedu stations registered rainfall above 200 mm in the last 24 hours, he said.
Two deaths have been reported in the state in the last two days.
"Two persons drowned in Ernakulam and Kozhikode districts. Stepping into water bodies and crossing rivers should be avoided during the times of heavy rains and winds," he said.
The CM also cautioned people to be vigilant against fierce winds in northern districts Saturday night under the impact of the cyclone.
On the CWC's flood warning, he said as it was not the rainy season in the state, there was no danger of floods, as of now.
However, directions have been issued to evacuate people from the flood-prone areas when necessary, he said, adding that as the big dams presently do not have large amounts of water, there was no need to be panic over that.
Vijayan said at least 9 districts have been severely affected by the sea incursion.
A large number of people were shifted to relief camps in various districts, arranged in adherence to COVID protocol. According to figures, 71 relief camps have been opened in the state this month, where over 2,000 people are staying. As many as 1,128 people, belonging to 293 families, were moved to relief camps in the capital district Thiruvananthapuram alone.
Urging people to show no reluctance to move to relief camps during emergencysituations, the chief minister said everyone should follow COVID protocol including wearing masks and practicingsocial distancing norms there.
Coast Guard rescues fishermen off Kannur
Meanwhile, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has rescued three fishermen stranded in a marooned Indian Fishing Boat Badhriya as Cyclone Tauktae ravaged the sea off Kannur.
In a swift operation on the night of May 14, 2021, ICG ship Vikram rescued IFB Badhriya which had left Talessary Harbour on May 9, 2021.
The fishermen were provided medical emergency treatment onboard the ICG ship. ICG Headquarters at Kerala and Mahe coordinate the search and rescue operation in the state.
District Commander DIG Sanatan Jena said despite very rough sea conditions, ICG ships were out at sea rescuing the fishers trapped in rough sea and wind conditions.
Cyclone Tauktae, which left its impact off Kerala Coast, is now slowly and steadily moving up in northern direction. ICG ships were continuously patrolling the high seas shepherding the boats to safe waters and towards land.
The ICG is continuously warning all fishermen about the deteriorating weather condition and impending cyclonic weather through Radar Stations and ICG aircraft patrolling the areas.
PM reviews preparedness on Tauktae
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday reviewed the preparedness of states, central ministries and agencies concerned to deal with the situation arising out of cyclone Tauktae and asked them to take every possible measure to ensure that people are safely evacuated.
He also called for ensuring maintenance of all essential services such as power, telecommunications, health and drinking and their immediate restoration in the event of damages caused to them, a statement said.
At the high-level meeting which was attended by Home Minister Amit Shah and top officials concerned, Modi directed them to ensure special preparedness on COVID management in hospitals, vaccine cold chain and other medical facilities on power back up and storage of essential medicines and to plan for unhindered movement of oxygen tankers, the PMO said.
"He (PM) also directed for 24x7 functioning of control rooms. He also said that special care needs to be taken to ensure that there is least possible disruption in oxygen supply from Jamnagar. He also spoke about the need to involve the local community for timely sensitisation and relief measures," it added.
Cyclone to touch Gujarat coast on May 18
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said at the meeting that cyclone Tauktae is expected to touch Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Naliya around May 18 afternoon or evening with a wind speed ranging up to 175 kmph.
"It is very likely to intensify further into a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm during next 12 hours and intensify further. It is very likely to move north-northwestwards and reach Gujarat coast in the morning of 18th and cross Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Naliya around 18th May afternoon/evening," the IMD said in their latest bulleting.
It is likely to cause heavy rainfall in the coastal districts of Gujarat, including extremely heavy falls in Junagadh and Gir Somnath and heavy to very heavy rain at a few places in the districts of Saurashtra, Kutch and Diu, namely Gir Somnath, Diu, Junagadh, Porbandar, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Amreli, Rajkot, Jamnagar.
The IMD also warned of storm surge of about two-three metre above astronomical tide to inundate coastal areas of Morbi, Kutch, Devbhoomi Dwarka and Jamnagar districts and one-two metre along Porbandar, Junagarh, Diu, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar and 0.5 to one metre over the remaining coastal districts of Gujarat, the statement said.
The IMD has been issuing three hourly bulletins since May 13 with latest forecast to all the states concerned.
NDRF doubles number of response teams
The National Disaster Response Force has increased from 53 to 100 the number of teams earmarked to undertake relief and rescue measures in the wake of impending Cyclone Tauktae, a senior officer said on Saturday.
The force's Director General, S N Pradhan, said in a tweet that these teams are being mobilised for deployment in the coastal regions of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra.
Out of the 100 teams, the director general said 42 are being pre-deployed or stationed on the ground in six states while 26 are on stand-by.
Thirty-two teams are on backup and can be airlifted upon requirement, Pradhan said.
The NDRF chief also said that members of these teams have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and are equipped with the required tools.
Indian Coast Guard and the Navy have deployed ships and helicopters for relief, search and rescue operations, it said, adding that the Air Force and engineer task force units of the Army, with boats and rescue equipment, are on standby for deployment.
Seven ships with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief units are on standby along the western coast, while surveillance aircraft and helicopters are carrying out serial surveillance.
(With PTI inputs)