Kerala floods: Thousands await rescue as death toll crosses 200

More than 300,000 displaced since August 8 after record rains in southern Indian state cause flooding and landslides.

    Thousands of stranded people are waiting for rescue as relentless monsoon floods continue to batter the south Indian state of Kerala, where more than 200 people have died in a little over a week.

    More than 300,000 people have also been displaced since August 8, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) officials said on Friday evening, adding that 2,600 villages have been flooded.

    Thousands of homes have been destroyed and more than 10,000km of roads damaged across the state.

    The state is "facing the worst floods in 100 years", chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Twitter, adding that at least 324 lives have been lost so far since the monsoon season started in June.

    On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with the state's top officials, promising tens of millions of dollars in aid.

    The central government has dispatched military units to Kerala, but state officials are pleading for additional help.

    "The situation in Chenagnnur is getting worse with every passing moment. Thousands are stranded for the fourth day without food, water and medicine. Unless urgent steps are taken to reach them, there could be huge casualties," Saji Cheriyan, member of legislative assembly representing Chenagnnur, told reporters.

    "Please give us a helicopter. I am begging you. Please help me, people in my place will die. Please help us. There is no other solution, people have to be airlifted. We did what we can with fishing boats we procured using our political clout. But we can't do more. The armed forces need to come here, please help us," Cheiryan added in his distress message on tv.

     

    Authorities warned of more torrential rain and strong winds over the weekend, as hundreds of troops and local fishermen staged desperate rescue attempts in helicopters and boats across Kerala. 

    Across the state of 33 million, people have made panicked appeals on social media, saying they cannot make contact with rescue services as power and communication lines are down.

    "I've been in Kochi since the flooding of Periyar river. Large parts of the city are under water. I've tried to get back to my native Malabar but the bridges are submerged and the airport is closed. The situation has been this for the past four days. Buses and trains are cancelled," Labeeb Ibrahim told Al Jazeera.

    "The other concern is the food supply. Supermarkets and shops are shut. Wherever they are open, they are running out of stock. People are panic buying."

    More than 30 military helicopters and 320 boats are attempting rescues across Kerala after some areas were engulfed by overflowing rivers, with residents seen swimming and wading through chest-high waters past partially submerged homes.

    Helicopters have also been dropping emergency food and water supplies, while special trains carrying drinking water have been sent to Kerala.

    Authorities said thousands of people have been taken to safety so far but 6,000 more are still waiting for rescue.

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    "We are deploying more boats, helicopters and the army to speed up rescue operations," PH Kurian, State Relief Commissioner and Convenor of KSDMA, told Al Jazeera.

    According to India's weather bureau, since the beginning of June, more than 321cm of rain has fallen on the hilly central district of Idukki, which is now virtually cut off from the rest of the state.

    The Kerala government has said it faces an "extremely grave" crisis and Vijayan warned of further torrential rainfall hitting the region over the weekend.

    The gates of dozens of dams and reservoirs across the state have been opened as water levels reach dangerous levels, inundating many other villages.

    With additional reporting by Aslah Kayyalakkath in Kerala state 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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