The death toll from floods in Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra rose to 147, state authorities said yesterday, as rescue teams raced to evacuate people and waters submerged parts of a world heritage site.
Heavy rain and landslides forced hundreds of thousands of people to take shelter in relief camps, while train services were cancelled in several flood-hit areas.
In Kerala, at least 57 people were killed in rain-related incidents while over 165,000 people were in relief camps in the state, state authorities said yesterday.
“Several houses are still covered under 10-12 feet deep mud. This is hampering rescue work,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.
Authorities worried that rescue operations would be hit by thunderstorms and rainfall predicted in some parts of Kerala.
Kerala — a popular tourist haven known for its pristine beaches, hill resorts and backwaters — is among the worst hit.
“At least 165,000 people have been moved to over 1,318 relief camps spread across 14 districts in the state,” a senior Kerala police officer told AFP.
Bad weather and damaged infrastructure were affecting rescue and relief work, he added.
The worst-affected areas are Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram.  Various rescue teams are working hard to recover bodies of those trapped.
“As of now, eight people are still missing in Meppadi and with the rains subsiding, the rescue works are going on well. However, more rains are predicted in the coming days. All should be on high alert and be receptive to warnings,” Vijayan said.
Earlier in the day, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who is the MP from Wayanad, reached Kozhikode and drove first to Kavalapara and visited a church where 360 people were taking shelter.
Gandhi will be touring Wayanad today where he is expected to visit a few relief camps and affected areas.
Meanwhile, Vijayan expressed anguish at the manner in which some sections are spreading rumours about contributions to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund.
“This fund will be used only for the needs of the affected and not for anything else. Knowing well about this, it’s unfortunate that some negative campaigns are currently on… what we have found out is that the origin of this is from outside our state. The media also has a role in this to ensure that these anti-social measures are curbed,” he said.
“We have not yet asked for funds from the Centre and they are providing us all the support for the ongoing relief and rescue work,” added Vijayan.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told the media that he has called on everyone to contribute to the fund generously.
The maximum deaths — 18 — were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, and Kozhikode have also reported casualties.
“Today there is a red alert in Kannur, Kasargode and Wayanad and orange alerts in six other districts,” Vijayan said.
The chief minister said despite heavy rains, the water level had increased only in three dams while water level at dams in Idukki and Pathanamthitta continue to be low.
Even while a few long distance trains were cancelled for the day, Railways were able to operate short distance ones in several sectors while in few other sectors, operations are expected to begin soon.
The Cochin International Airport that was closed a few days back, was also opened for service Sunday afternoon when the first flight landed.
“Operations have resumed and passengers can come for check-in according to the schedules,” said an airport official.
Last year, more than 200 people were killed in Kerala and over 5mn affected in one of worst floods in 100 years in the state.
In Karnataka, several structures at world heritage site Hampi, an ancient town, were flooded. So far 60 people have died in rain-related incidents, said Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, adding nearly 227,000 people were staying in relief camps.
While Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra have been the worst hit this year, several other states including Gujarat, Assam and Bihar have also seen heavy damage due to floods.
In Maharashtra, where the death toll stood at 30, the flood situation was improving, according to state-run All India Radio, though authorities said it would be difficult to restore rail services in some flood-hit areas within the next two weeks.
The Congress party called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide relief packages.
Citing media reports, the Congress party said so far this year 446 people have been killed in six flood-hit states including Assam, Bihar and Gujarat.
“Despite the mammoth loss of lives and displacement caused due to floods, the government is failing to realise the gravity of the flood fury,” the Congress party said in a statement yesterday.
Meanwhile accidents caused by heavy rains in Gujarat, the home state of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have taken the lives of at least 16 people. While the monsoon rains are crucial to replenishing water supplies, they kill hundreds of people every year.