People evacuated from rooftops as Kerala floods kill hundreds

Stranded people moved to 1,200 camps as heavy rains kill 164, pushing overall death toll during monsoon season to 324.

Rescue workers have used helicopters and boats to evacuate hundreds of people stranded on their roofs following unprecedented flooding in India’s Kerala state where more than 160 people have died over the past 10 days, officials said.

Heavy rains in recent days triggered flooding and landslides while also leading to collapse of homes and bridges and severely disrupted air and train services in the southern state.

With torrential rains coming to a halt on Friday, thousands of rescuers worked to shift the marooned people to 1,200 state-run camps already sheltering more than 150,000 people.

On Friday, a pregnant woman with her water bag leaking was airlifted and evacuated from a rooftop by the Indian navy in Aluva district. 

Soon after the dramatic rescue, Sajita Jabeel, 25, gave birth to a baby boy.

“The young lady and her new born son both are doing fine,” a navy spokesperson said on Twitter. 

A defence ministry representative said in a statement on Thursday afternoon that more than 3,000 people had been rescued by the armed forces in 12 districts of Kerala.

State officials have put the death toll at 164 since August 8.

More than 300 have been reported killed since the monsoon season began on May 25, according to Kerala disaster management officials. 

“Kerala is facing its worst flood in 100 years. Eighty dams opened, 324 lives lost and 223,139 people are in 1500-plus relief camps,” Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala chief minister, said on Twitter on Friday.

On Thursday morning, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he had asked the country’s defence ministry to further step up rescue and relief operations across the state. Modi was expected to visit Kerala on Friday.

Authorities have opened the gates of 34 reservoirs as water reached dangerous levels.

Hundreds of villages have been flooded, more than 10,000km of roads and thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state, officials said.

‘Truly overwhelming’

The rescue efforts are led by soldiers, and the central government has asked armed forces to send additional teams to the southern state.

“Relief and rescue efforts have really gained momentum over the last 48 hours, particularly with the army, navy, airforce and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) stepping in,” said Parvinder Singh, communications manager for the Indian Red Cross. 

Singh, from the Indian Red Cross, said the floods were “truly overwhelming”.

“The magnitude of this calamity is fairly large and that is really stretching all the relief and rescue efforts that are going on,” he told Al Jazeera in an interview from the capital, New Delhi.

Hundreds still remain stranded across certain portions of Kerala.

“The typography is such that there are slopes and hills in many places, so there have been landslides even on roads and the traffic has been blocked,” said Dhanya Rajendran, an Indian journalist, speaking to Al Jazeera from Thrissur, one of the worst-affected areas.

Monsoon rains lead to deaths of hundreds of people in India every year.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies