Heavy monsoon rains in Kerala state, ongoing since August 8, eased over the weekend of August 18-19, prompting Indian authorities to lift red weather alerts from districts across the region. The respite is also allowing emergency crews to step up their rescue efforts, including airlifting stranded people from rooftops in flooded areas (notably around Chengannur, where some 5000 people are believed to be trapped) and delivering essential goods to other hard-hit areas via plane or boat (notably in Alapuzha, Thrissur, and Ernakulam). According to local sources, approximately 22,000 people across the state were rescued on Sunday, August 19. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has stated that heavy rain is expected to hold off until at least Wednesday, allowing relief efforts to continue.
Despite the improvement in the situation, at least 13 fatalities were reported on August 19, bringing the total number of rain-related deaths to over 370 since the beginning of monsoon season in May. The majority of deaths have taken place since August 8, as rain levels reached 250 percent higher than normal in Kerala (usually hit hard during monsoon season in an average year) during the week of August 15. In addition, over 700,000 people have reportedly sought shelter in temporary camps, raising concerns over possible outbreaks of water- and air-borne diseases in the coming days and weeks.
Cochin International Airport (COK), serving the state capital Kochi, has been closed since August 14 after the runway and some airport facilities were flooded; the airport is expected to remain closed until August 26. However, authorities have announced that some commercial flights in and out of Kochi will temporarily resume from the Garuda naval airbase beginning on August 20. Other major transportation disruptions are to be expected across the state; hundreds of bridges have reportedly been damaged, and efforts are ongoing to build temporary roads to link isolated communities. Emergency teams are also working to restore electricity to regions hit by power outages.
Individuals present in India are advised to continue to postpone nonessential travel to Kerala. People currently present in the state are advised to keep abreast of local weather forecasts, anticipate localized flooding and associated road hazards, and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities.
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