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Floods and landslides inundate Kerala

KOCHI (UCAN): Monsoon rain, pouring down since August 7, triggered flash floods and landslides in India’s Kerala state claiming at least 23 lives, and washing away homes, as government agencies and voluntary groups rushed aid to the area.
Army, navy and air force personnel were called in to help police and residents manage the disaster in the worst-affected six districts in the central and northern hilly areas of the southern Indian state.
Church officials are working overtime to rehabilitate affected people, mostly village farmers who have been displaced or have lost their homes and crops.
As rain continued to lash the region, officials opened the floodgates of 24 dams on August 9, including the biggest, Idukki Dam, threatening more areas with floods.
“It is a very alarming situation,” said state chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, adding that it was the first time that the floodgates of so many dams had been opened on a single day.
Those of Idukki Dam, the tallest arch dam in Asia, were opened when the water level rose to its capacity.
The floods have claimed the lives of 11 people in hilly Idukki, six in Malappuram, three in Ernakulam, two in Kozhikode and one in Wayanad. Six people are also reported missing across Kerala.
Bishop Jacob Manathodath, the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, has appealed to Church authorities to make churches and other buildings available to displaced people.
Church officials said that priests in all parishes have been directed to throw open church schools and other institutions to accommodate people besides distributing food, clothes and other relief materials.
The situation is likely to worsen, according to K. Santhosh, Kerala director of the Indian Meteorological Department. He predicted heavy rain in several parts of the state through August 11. “Heavy to very heavy rainfall will lash Ernakulam, Idukki and Alappuzha districts on Friday and Saturday,” Santhosh said.
“The heavy rain and landslides in the state have brought lot of hardship to people. The opening of the dams has caused anxiety among people living on the banks of the Periyar River. The Church should do everything possible to alleviate their hardship,” Bishop Manathodath said.
He appealed to people to contribute food, clothes and other items to help flood victims.
Father Jose Plachikkal, spokesperson for the Diocese of Idukki, the worst-affected area, said the diocese was fully aware of the gravity of the situation and most residents were affected.
But Church people have joined local authorities in accommodating those displaced by floods, landslides and the opening of the dams, he said.
Father Abhilash Chirambikkunnel, an official of the Diocese of Thamaraserry, said schools and other Church institutions were being made available to accommodate people in Kozhikode and Wayanad districts.

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