KOCHI: Hundreds of troops led a desperate operation to rescue families trapped by mounting floods in India’s Kerala state Thursday as the death toll reached 106 with nearly 150,000 left homeless.
Helicopters airlifted stranded victims from rooftops and dam gates were thrown open as incessant torrential rain brought fresh havoc to the southern state that is a major international tourist draw.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state now faces an “extremely grave” crisis with more downpours predicted. The region’s main airport has been ordered closed until August 26.
The state, famed for palm-lined beaches at resorts such as Bekal and tea plantations, is always battered by the annual monsoon but this year’s damage has been the worst in almost a century.
The death toll had jumped to 106 late Thursday, a state disaster management official told AFP.
Media reports said up to 30 more people were feared dead in landslides and rivers that burst their banks, flooding scores of villages.
At least eight people were killed when an irrigation dam burst and a landslide hit three houses in the town of Nenmara, Palakkad district, authorities said.
Vijayan said 80 dams have reached danger levels and appealed to the population not to ignore evacuation orders.
Army and coastguard helicopters, lifeboats and navy diving teams have been brought to the stricken state where an extra 540 troops were deployed Thursday. More are due in coming days.
The army said helicopters carried out scores of rescue operations. They also dropped food and water and appealed for victims to stand in open fields or on rooftops away from trees so helicopters were not damaged during rescue efforts.
One state official said more than 1,330 camps have been opened across Kerala and 147,000 people had sought shelter by Thursday evening.
“At least 6,500 people are stranded in different parts of Kerala and the situation in three districts is particularly grim,” a separate state disaster management official told AFP.
Floods have also hit other states, including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, where eight people at a popular picnic spot were swept away by a sudden surge of water.
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In Kerala families could be seen paddling boats provided by the military, while in some areas families commandeered local wooden boats to ferry themselves to safety.