Death toll rising: Rain fury claims 256 lives in Kerala

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The death toll in the second round of flood havoc in Kerala has crossed 87 as the state grapples with worst rain ravage in its history. From May 29, the ongoing monsoon season has robbed as many as 256 lives, said chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Five bodies were recovered after landslide in Thrissur on Thursday, and more are feared trapped in the debris. More than 1,50,000 people are in relief camps. Thousands of Kerala-bound travellers are stranded as Cochin International Airport stopped operations. Flights to Kochi were diverted to Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai and Coimbatore. Although Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and Kozhikode airport are active, the rail traffic in the state has drawn to a grinding halt. The Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) also suspended its operations, after its yard was submerged in the flood waters. Almost all villages are affected, either by floods or landslides. I have appraised Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the situation and he has promised more support from Defence Forces, Kerala flood havoc is yet to get National Disaster tag, that makes it entitled to calamity funds, though the state had reported initial damages of about Rs 8,316 crore. However, National Crisis Management Committee has asked, the Army, Navy, IAF, Coast Guard and NDRF to mobilise additional manpower, boats and helicopters to scale up the operations. Indian Navy has started airlift operations near the banks of Pampa, Periyar and Muvattupuzha rivers. Navy and Coastguard rescued about 170 people on Thursday. With rains continuing unabated, all 44 rivers are overflowing at present. As many as 35 fast-filling water reservoirs were forced to open their floodgates, causing the never-before kind of floods. Entire towns were cut off from rest of the civilization by landslides and flash floods. Crop damages have been reported statewide. The tourist spot Munnar town and the pilgrim-centre Sabarimala were cut off. The damages in life and property in far-flung villages and other settlements are yet to be enumerated, said a spokesman of State Disaster Management Authority. The Met office attributes the current spell of rains to a depression over coastal Odisha which developed on Wednesday morning. This is likely to continue for the next 48 hours, according to the forecast.