Flood death toll in India’s Kerala jumps to over 320
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Flood death toll in India’s Kerala jumps to over 320

Rescue operations underway to save thousands still trapped by monsoon waters in tourist hotspot, with more heavy rainfall expected

  • An Indian rickshaw puller makes way through a water logged street following heavy rains in Allahabad, India, August 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
    An Indian rickshaw puller makes way through a water logged street following heavy rains in Allahabad, India, August 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
  • An Indian man grazing buffalos tries to cross River Tawi that was flooded following monsoon rains in Jammu, India, August.13, 2018. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
    An Indian man grazing buffalos tries to cross River Tawi that was flooded following monsoon rains in Jammu, India, August.13, 2018. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
  • Water gushes out following heavy rain and landslide in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, August 9, 2018. (AP Photo)
    Water gushes out following heavy rain and landslide in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, August 9, 2018. (AP Photo)

KOCHI, India — The death toll from floods that have triggered landslides and sent torrents sweeping through villages in the Indian state of Kerala trebled Friday to 324, authorities said, amid warnings of worse weather to come.

Hundreds of troops and local fishermen are staging desperate rescue attempts with helicopters and boats across the southern state, which draws international tourists to its tropical hills and beaches.

Kerala has been battered by record monsoon rainfall this year and is “facing the worst floods in 100 years,” chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a Twitter statement, adding that 324 lives had been lost so far.

Thousands are still waiting for relief and rescue across the flood-ravaged state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that he had discussed the flood situation with Vijayan as more troops and rescue workers were deployed across Kerala.

“Later this evening, I will be heading to Kerala to take stock of the unfortunate situation,” Modi said on Twitter.

An elderly woman is rescued in a cooking utensil after her home was flooded in Thrissur, Kerala state, India, August 16, 2018. (AP Photo/K.K.Najeeb)

The state, famed for its palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is always pommeled by the annual monsoon but this year’s damage has been the most severe in almost a century.

More than 150,000 people made homeless across the state have moved into some 1,300 relief camps.

Vijayan’s office Friday posted a fresh warning for around 33 million residents of Kerala.

“Alert: all districts apart from Kasargod are under red alert… heavy rains may affect these 13 districts. Everyone please be cautious,” his office tweeted.

Even before the latest warning, locals like Ajo Varghese have been posting desperate appeals for relief and rescue on social media.

Laborers hailing from northern states wade through flood waters as they shift to higher grounds following heavy rains in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala state, India, August 15, 2018. (AP Photo)

“My family and neighboring families are in trouble with flood in Pandanad nakkada area in Alappuzha,” Varghese said in a viral Facebook post.

“No water and food. Not able to communicate from afternoon. Mobile phones are not reachable and switch off. Please help… No rescue is available,” he added.

A state official told AFP that apart from the new rainfall warnings, a breakdown of the local communication system was making it difficult for them to reach local people who may be in urgent need in the worst-affected areas.

Indians make their way through a water logged street following heavy rains in Allahabad, India, August 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

The government says 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged and tens of thousands of homes partially or completely damaged.

The gates of at least 34 major dams and reservoirs across the state have been opened in the last few days as water levels reached danger levels.

North and central Kerala has been worst-hit by the floods with the international airport in main city of Kochi shut until at least August 26.

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