August 9, 2019 / 6:07 AM / 3 months ago

Floods kill at least 28 in southern India, displace thousands

BENGALURU/MUMBAI (Reuters) - At least 28 people have died in the southern Indian state of Kerala after torrential monsoon rains caused landslides and flooding that cut off some areas, authorities said on Friday.

Rescuers help people to cross a flooded area after a landslide caused by torrential monsoon rains in Meppadi in Wayanad district in the southern Indian state of Kerala, India, August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

More than 64,000 people were evacuated and Cochin International Airport, the busiest airport in a state popular with tourists, was closed.

The airport, which is located along the banks of the Periyar river, will be shut until at least 1500 IST (0930 GMT) on Sunday, although the Indian Navy has opened an airfield at a naval base for use by commercial flights, officials said.

Seasonal monsoon rains from June to September cause deaths and mass displacement across South Asia every year but they also deliver more than 70% of India’s rainfall and are crucial for farmers.

Kerala was hit by devastating floods last August that killed more than 200 people and affected more than 5 million. Those floods, dubbed the worst to hit the state in nearly a century, caused billions of dollars of damage to fields, homes and other infrastructure.

In the latest flooding, several dozen people were feared to have been trapped after landslides in Wayanad and Malappuram districts. Rescuers have recovered seven bodies and the state government is planning to airlift rescue equipment to the area, said Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Bad weather was hampering rescue operations and rescuers faced the threat of further landslides, Vijayan said.

“Casualties could go up as many people are still trapped under debris,” said an official with Kerala government, who did not want to be named.

Kerala received 155 mm (6.1 inches) of rain on Friday, ten times more than average, weather department data showed.

TRUCKS DELAYED

The neighboring state of Karnataka, and Maharashtra in the west have also been hit by heavy rains and flooding.

At least 40 people have been killed in the two states this week and more than 400,000 have been displaced as rivers burst their banks, officials said.

Thousands of trucks were stuck for more than three days on a national highway linking the financial capital of Mumbai with the southern technology hub of Bengaluru, with the road submerged in some places, a Maharashtra government official said.

Hundreds of villages and dozens of towns in the affected areas of Maharashtra and Karnataka were without electricity and drinking water, state government officials said on Friday.

Fuel was also scarce because some districts had been cut off from the rest of the state, they said.

Supplies of milk and vegetables to Mumbai dropped significantly on Friday because many of the affected districts in Maharashtra are major suppliers.

Slideshow (7 Images)

Schools and colleges in many parts of western and southern India have been shut since Monday, authorities have said.

The weather department forecast heavy rainfall in Kerala, and Maharashtra and Karnataka in the next two days.

Kerala has been releasing water from 13 dams to avoid dam waters rising to dangerous levels like last year, authorities said.

Reporting by Gopakumar Warrier in Bengaluru and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Additional reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Paul Tait and Frances Kerry

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