Thiruvananthapuram/Thrissur:Thousands of residents in central and north Kerala districts were evacuated on Thursday after monsoon rains caused floodwaters to rise in various rivers, forcing authorities to open shutters of dams to manage water level in reservoirs.
At least 19 people have died in the heavy rains and flooding in the state since July 31. It also caused damage to 32 properties completely and 232 partially, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) said.
A red alert was sounded in 8 districts of the southern state on Thursday by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) as rains continued to lash various parts and disrupted the day-to-day lives of the people. Roads in low-lying areas got flooded or caved in and many got displaced from their homes to relief camps.
A government statement said 6411 people have been evacuated in the state so far due to the severe rains. Many of them have been housed in 221 relief camps that were opened in various districts.
"In the event of rising water levels in Chalakudy River in Thrissur district, the steps to evacuate the people on both banks of the river are going on", it said.
Few shutters of at least four dams situated in Thrissur district and one each in Idukki and Palakkad were opened as the water level behind them rose above permitted limits, officials said.
Earlier in the day, IMD issued a red alert for the day in the districts of Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad and Kannur and Orange alert in remaining districts except for Thiruvananthapuram where a Yellow alert is in place.
A red alert indicates heavy to extremely heavy rains of over 20 cm in 24 hours, while orange alert means very heavy rains of 6 cm to 20 cm. A yellow alert means heavy rainfall between 6 and 11 cm.
The heavy downpour resulted in water levels of various rivers -- like Chalakkudy, Pampa, Manimala and Achankovil -- in various districts rising close to or crossing danger levels.
As the rains intensified in the state and in anticipation of water in Chalakkudy river rising further, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan warned residents along its banks and those in low-lying areas of Thrissur and Ernakulam districts to be cautious and to be ready for evacuation as per instructions of the authorities.
The Chalakkudy river level is increasing due to release of water from Peringalkuthu dam where some of its shutters had to be opened due to heavy rainfall in its catchment area and around 16,000 cusecs of water coming from Tamil Nadu, Thrissur district officials said, adding, people on the river banks and nearby areas have been shifted to relief camps.
With water from Chimmini dam also being released further in view of the heavy rains in Thrissur district, the water in Kurumali river -- which is already above warning level -- is expected to rise further, officials said.
A statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said that six major dams -- Ponmudi, Lower Periyar, Kallarkutty, Erattayar and Kundala in Idukki and Moozhiyar in Pathanamthitta districts have reached red alert water storage levels.
The CMO statement also advised the public to completely avoid night travel to hilly areas, those living near rivers, lakes and disaster prone areas to shift to relief camps, avoid going near rivers with high water levels and asked them to keep emergency kits ready at homes.
It further said fake news should not be spread and for emergency help, the district disaster management authority's toll-free number 1077 was available.
Meanwhile, state Health Minister Veena George advised extreme caution against infectious diseases in view of the heavy rainfall in the state.
A holiday has been declared for schools and educational institutions in various districts of the state in view of the rains.
Meanwhile, the weather office has predicted widespread rains in Kerala from August 4 to 8.