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Deadly flash floods in Kerala trigger US travel alert

Two days of heavy rains force officials to release water from 24 reservoirs

Flooding in Kozhikode, Kerala on August 9, 2018 following heavy rains. AP Photo
Flooding in Kozhikode, Kerala on August 9, 2018 following heavy rains. AP Photo

Flash floods have claimed at least 27 lives in the Indian state of Kerala, officials said on Friday, prompting the US to advise its citizens to stay away from the popular tourist destination.

The southern 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.

The army has been called in for rescue efforts after two days of rain that have forced authorities to release excess water from 24 reservoirs.

About 20,000 people have been displaced and 260 relief camps have been set up. Fifty-seven tourists including 24 foreigners were stranded in the hill station of Munnar.

One of the five shutters of a large reservoir in the mountainous Idukki district was opened for the first time in 26 years.

"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 wote on Twitter.

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

In view of the devastation, the US embassy on Thursday advised its citizens to avoid the areas affected and constantly monitor local media for weather updates.

More than a million foreign tourists visited Kerala last year, according to official data.

The government of Kerala, which has a population of 33 million people, imposed a ban on the movement of lorries and tourist vehicles in Idukki.

The monsoon, which lasts roughly from June to September, has claimed more than 70 lives across the state this year and damaged crops worth millions of dollars.

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

Updated: August 10, 2018 05:20 PM