Worst floods in nearly a century kill 44 in India's Kerala state amid torrential monsoon rains

Rivers overflow after authorities forced to release water from dangerously full reservoirs

Chris Baynes
Wednesday 15 August 2018 16:30 BST
Rescue workers evacuate people in Muppathadam in Kochi's Ernakulam district
Rescue workers evacuate people in Muppathadam in Kochi's Ernakulam district (AFP/Getty Images)

At least 44 people have died after days of torrential monsoon rains triggered the worst floods in nearly a century in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to abandon their homes in the popular tourist state, where a major airport has shut and trains have been severely disrupted.

The latest five deaths came on Wednesday after authorities were forced to release water from 35 dangerously full dams, sending it surging into overflowing rivers.

Flooding has destroyed or damaged houses and caused significant losses to crops in the state, known for its spices and coffee.

The army has been deployed to help evacuate people in the worst affected areas, with more than 50,000 people forced to take shelter in relief camps.

The Indian Meteorological Department has warned heavy rains were set to continue until Saturday and issued a “red alert” for 12 out of the Kerala’s 14 districts.

The international airport in Kochi, a major port city, has suspended all flights until Saturday afternoon after its runway flooded.

Kerala is popular among tourists for its scenic landscapes, waterfalls and beaches.

Authorities have asked visitors to stay away from popular destinations including the Munnar hill station.

Sabarimala, a Hindu shrine in the mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta district which attracts around 45 million pilgrims a year, has been closed due to the swollen waters of the nearby Pamba river.

“Presently, 35 reservoirs in the state are releasing water. Many districts in the state are facing floods,” said Pinarayi Vijayan, the state’s chief minister.

Sekhar Lukose Kuriakose, a senior official with the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, said the seasonal rains had killed more than 200 people in the state since May.

Officials said 44 people had died since 8 August.

Torrential rain kills hundreds of people every year in India, where the monsoon season runs from June to September, but Kerala has not seen such devastating flooding since 1924.

Additional reporting by agencies

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