Kerala Rain | High alert on the banks of Periyar, landslide warning at 33 places in Kottayam

The swollen Chalakudy River at Pariyaram near Viripara in Thrissur. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

Ernakulam: Flood-prone regions on the banks of Periyar river have been put on high alert as the water from Idukki and Idamalayar dams reached Aluva and Kalady on Tuesday evening. The dams were opened as a precautionary measure in view of the torrential rains in Kerala.

The Idukki dam shutters were opened on Tuesday at 11am. The shutter number three of the Cheruthoni dam which forms part of the Idukki dam was opened by 35 cm first in order to regulate the water level. The shutters number two was opened at 12pm and shutter number four was opened at 12:30pm

Even though rains subsided in several parts of Kerala on Monday, after receiving heavy downpour last week, the decision to open shutters of these dams was taken as water levels there had reached close to the danger marks and more rains were expected from Wednesday.

The Idamalayar and Pamba dams were opened on Tuesday morning. The two shutters of the Idamalayar dam were opened 80 cm at 6am and the two shutters of Pamba dam were opened 30 cm by 5am. The Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta district administrations have sound alert along the Periyar and Pamba rivers.

Ernakulam District Collector Jafar Malik has urged those living on the banks of the Periyar River to take precautions.

Besides, the dams at Sholayar on Chalakudy river and Kakki on Kakki river have already been opened.

Despite opening of the shutters of the three dams, the water level in the concerned rivers – especially Periyar and Pamba – will not rise to the levels as seen in 2018, government officials said and added that people need not panic fearing a repeat of what happened back then.

Landslide warning at 33 places in Kottayam

Landslide warning has been issued for 33 places in Kottayam district, most of them in Koottickal, Thalandu and Teekoy villages. Eleven spots in Koottickal, which witnessed the deadly landslide that claimed 13 lives, are prone to more landslides in the coming days, according to authorities.

A high alert warning has been issued in Mundakkayam and Koottickal.

Those who live in these areas have been directed to shift to relief camps.

State Revenue Minister K Rajan, while speaking to media this morning, said if people refuse to move out of risk-prone areas, the government would be forced to "arrest" and shift them to the camps.

The minister said the district collectors have been asked to make preparations akin to that for a red alert situation.

Twelve units of the National Disaster Response Force have been deployed in these areas. The minister added that 3 helicopters of the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force are on standby.

High alert

On Tuesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan issued a statement asking people living in hill regions, low lying areas and along the banks of the rivers, whose dams have been opened, to exercise caution and move to relief camps set up across the state.

The CM also said that as the monsoon recedes, extreme levels of rainfall over a short period was expected and due to the same, there would be an increase in the risk of landslides and overflowing of rivers.

He said the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) has issued a stern directive to the people in hilly areas and river banks to remain vigilant till the current situation normalises.

Meanwhile, the district administrations in Pathanamthitta and Ernakulam have put on hold all quarrying activities till October 24.

In Ernakulam's Aluva-Kalady area, fishermen and their boats were brought in via trucks in preparation for rescue and evacuation of people who might get stranded if the water level of Periyar, which flows through the district, rises like it had in 2018 when heavy rainfall and opening of the dams had flooded homes there.

Orange alert in 11 districts 
The weather experts are expecting heavy rain from Wednesday, October 20. Heavy rain is expected to continue till October 24.

Heavy rain is unlikely on Tuesday, the Met predicted. However, a Yellow alert has been declared in Palakkad, Ernakulam, Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts for Tuesday.

As heavy to very heavy rains are expected in isolated places in 11 districts of Kerala, the weather department has issued an Orange alert in Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kannur districts.

On Thursday, October 21, an Orange alert will be in place in 12 districts except Kannur and Kasaragod.

(As per the Met standards, a Red alert denotes heavy to extremely heavy rains of over 20 cm in 24 hours, while Orange alert signifies very heavy rains of 6 cm to 20 cm of rains. A Yellow alert, on the other hand, denotes heavy rainfall between 6 to 11 cm.)

Eastern winds
Even if there is no formation of low-pressure over the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, eastern winds intensify rain. Though a low-pressure phenomenon is now forming in the Bay of Bengal above West Bengal and Odisha coasts, it is unlikely to have much impact on Kerala now.

Water level rising in Kuttanad
The water level in the Pamba and Achankovil rivers decreased on Monday. But the water levels in Lower Kuttanad and Upper Kuttanad areas have gone up due to the gush of water from the eastern hilly areas. The authorities started shifting people living in low-lying areas in Kuttanad to safer places. The help of the police is being utilised in many places to carry out the shifting process.

A single shutter of the Sholayar dam was opened on Monday. The situation is under control though the quantum of water in Athirapally Waterfalls and the Chalakudy River have gone up considerably.

In Alappuzha, where several places have been flooded, the state has set up 100 relief camps which are presently housing around 7,126 people from about 2,000 families.

Dams in Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad districts
Earlier, the Neyyar Dam in the Thiruvananthapuram district was opened by 120 cm. But with the intensity of the rain going down, the shutters were lowered by 40 cm. Though the shutters in Parappar dam in Thenmala were opened by 1.60 m, they were lowered to 1.40 m by Monday afternoon.

The water from the dams in Pothundy, Kanjirapuzha, Chulliyar, Malampuzha and Mangalam in the Palakkad district are also being released as part of precautionary measures.

According to the State Disaster Management Authority, the number of rain-related deaths in Kerala from October 12 to October 18 stood at 38. During the same period, at least 90 houses have been destroyed in the rains while 702 have been partially damaged.  

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