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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Kerala floods death toll jumps to 164

More than 160,000 residents of south Indian state seek shelter at relief camps

The death toll from heavy flooding in India's southern state of Kerala has jumped to 164, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Friday, as more heavy rainfall was predicted for the battered region.

Kerala's government has described the crisis - the worst in decades - as "extremely grave" and rescue operations were under way to help thousands of people trapped by floodwaters.

"The chief minister has confirmed 164 deaths. Around 100 people died in the last 36 hours alone," an Kerala government official said.

Local reports indicated an even higher toll with thousands 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 Mr 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," Mr Modi said on Twitter.

Leaders of the UAE sent messages of sympathy to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind for the deaths and injuries in Kerala. The President, Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, also extended condolences to the families of the victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

Kerala, a popular tourist destination famed for its beaches and natural beauty, is always pummelled by the annual monsoon but the damage this year has been the most severe in almost a century.

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

The chief minister's office on Friday posted a fresh warning for state's 33 million residents.

"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.

"My family and neighbouring families are in trouble with flood in Pandanad nakkada area in Alappuzha," Mr 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 said.

A state official said 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.

The government says 10,000 kilometres of 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, a week longer than announced earlier.

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Read more: Flights from UAE to flood-hit Kerala are cancelled

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