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Kerala floods toll touches 29, travel alert issued
Ashraf Padanna / Agencies August 11, 2018
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TRIVANDRUM: The Indian army rescued 57 tourists, 24 of them foreign holidaymakers, from flood-ravaged Kerala hill station of Munnar on Friday as the death toll rose to 29.

Authorities said they included seven from Saudi Arabia, five from Oman and seven from Singapore. They shifted them to a state-run hotel in the backwater getaway of Kumarakom.

The coastal state, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is battered by the annual monsoon every year but the rains have been particularly severe this season.

Nationwide, more than 700 people have been killed in monsoon flooding. Last year 1,200 people perished.

In Kerala the army has been roped in for rescue efforts after two days of rain that have forced authorities to open the shutters of 24 reservoirs to drain out the excess water.

“Twenty-four dams have been opened so far, which is unprecedented and is telling of the seriousness of the situation,” Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote on Twitter.

“People living in the downstream areas of these dams must be cautious.”

Some 20,000 people have been displaced and 260 relief camps have been set up. Though there were 22 deaths on Thursday, including two families swept away by an avalanche of landslides, the massive deployment of army and disaster relief forces have limited casualties.

The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority issued a red alert for Wayanad district for extremely heavy rainfall till Tuesday.

The red alert for Idukki will remain until Monday and Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Palakkad, Malappuram and Kozhikode districts on Saturday.

Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran asked the district authorities to shift all tourists from Idukki district to safer places after countries like the US advised their citizens not to visit the state.

“All the tourists are safe. The government has asked the army to help clear roads” the minister said. “The forces have also shifted out another trapped Russian family in Idukki.” The southern state hailed as India’s tourism gem has banned all tourist activities in the hilly district temporarily following the incidents.

The Cochin airport authorities, meanwhile, said the flight movements of the state’s largest airport were normal after a two-hour cessation on Thursday.

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