Kerala rains: 26 dead, dam shutter opened

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Fighting rain-pummeled disasters, including 26 deaths in last 24 hours, the Kerala government has opened a shutter of the Idukki Reservoir, one of the tallest arch dams in Asia. As water level still kept rising, the state has also issued a red alert in Idukki. As many as 78 dams in the state are facing rising water levels and shutters of 24 dams have been opened. The incessant rains also disrupted landing operations at the international airport in Kochi for nearly two hours in view of the possible inundation in the airport area following a rising water level in the Periyar river, flowing nearby. The arrival operations were resumed from 3.05 pm this evening, a spokesperson of the airport said. People have been told to keep away from dams and rivers, says Sekhar Kuriakose, Secretary, State Disaster Managment Authority. The Army, Navy, IAF and Coast Guard have been roped in to support rescue work. Idukki and Ernakulam district collectors have led the shifting of about 3,000 families to safer places. Due to floods, the state government has put on hold the famed Nehru trophy boat race regatta in Alapuzha, scheduled for Saturday, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said. A meeting, chaired by the CM, gave the go-ahead for opening one shutter of Cheruthoni dam ( part of the Idukki dam complex), after the water-level of Idukki reservoir crossed 2,398.8 ft. The reservoir capacity is 2,403 ft. It is the first time in 21st century that the shutter was opened. The shutter of Cheruthoni dam was last opened 26 years ago. Idukki reservoir includes a cluster of three dams The main Idukki dam has no shutters, as it is it is placed in a double-curvature between two giant granite rocks, pet-named, Kuravan and Kurathi. The other two in the cluster, are Cheruthoni and Kulamavu dams. When a shutter of Cheruthoni is opened, all the 14 dams downstream will have to open their shutters, in tandem. When the Cheruthoni shutter was opened by just 50 cm, water gushed from the swollen reservoir at the rate of 50,000 litres per second. Since trial run for four hours failed to bring down the water level, the shutter will be open till water- level fall, officials said. With inputs from PTI