First flight lands in Kochi as floods recede in most parts of Kerala
20 August 2018
Even as the flood waters showed signs of receding in most districts of Kerala and the government withdrew the red alert in all 14 districts, heavy rains continue pound Pathanamthitta, the worst affected district, and water level in the Pamba and Kakki reservoirs continued to rise.
Airlines also started operating flights to and from Kochi at the Kochi Naval Airbase today with smaller aircraft operating services to Bengaluru, Chennai and Coimbatore.
The Naval Airbase in Kochi will now be used for commercial flights as the Kochi international airport at Nedumbasseri has been rendered non-functional since 14 August.
Indian Railways has restored passenger and express train services in the flood-hit Ernakulam district. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation also restored some of the long-distance services.
Clear skies could be seen in some districts of the flood-ravaged state slowly baring the extent of damage caused by the worst floods in 100 years, as heavy rains have reduced in several towns. The water level in the Periyar river also continued to recede.
However, in Pathanamthitta, heavy rains have been reported to be continuing and a rain alert has been sounded in Ranni and Chengannur.
The situation in Kerala is expected to improve a little over the next 4-5 days as the MeT department has predicted that the intensity of rains may reduce in the coming days.
Today there are close to a million people in relief camps. District collectors are working as coordinators and providing supplies. Central forces are providing amazing service to Kerala. But the biggest heroes are fishermen, who came all the way from Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam in the south with 600 boats to rescue people from inaccessible places.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that fishermen would receive Rs3,000 per day, a new boat and fuel. He also said that damages would be compensated fairly.
The fishermen were crucial to the number of people rescued, as the waters in Kerala have strong currents and normal boats would not be able to traverse. Fishing boats were deployed in all of these areas, and since fishermen spend their lives at sea, they were able to navigate smaller pockets that other rescue personnel were struggling with.
Nearly 9 lakh people are now lodged in shelter camps in Kerala. As rescue operations wound down to its final stages, the government began to shift focus to ensuring relief to affected persons, and to the rebuilding of civic infrastructure damaged by the floods.
Thirteen more deaths were reported on Sunday in the floods triggered by 10 days of torrential rainfall in Kerala, taking the death toll to 210. The overall death toll since 29 May rose to 370.
Kerala received 164 per cent of normal rains in August alone. Between 1 and 19 August, the recorded rainfall in Kerala is 758.6 mm against a normal of 287.6 mm.
The state has suffered an estimated loss of Rs19,512 crore as per initial assessment and requested for an immediate assistance of Rs2,000 crore.
Meanwhile, rehabilitation efforts are now on, even as the authorities have informed victims of the floods to beware of snakes and insects in flood-hit houses.
The Kerala government on Sunday informed the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) that the situation in the flood-ravaged state was gradually improving, even as some rainfall was forecast for the coastal state from today onwards.
The main Kochi international airport, the seventh busiest in the country, has been rendered non-functional from 14 August due to flooding and torrential rains, and would remain closed till August 26. As a result, both domestic and international flights to Kochi are being diverted to other destinations such as Thruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.
“In view of disruption of flights from Cochin airport due to floods, a joint team sent by @MoCA_GoI has approved starting of scheduled commercial flights using ATRs by Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, between Bangalore and Cochin Naval Air base,” civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted on Saturday evening.
In another tweet, he said, “flight operations between Bangalore and Cochin Naval airbase will be starting from 20th August morning.” He said more destinations such as Madurai were also in the pipeline and that other airlines were likely to join in.
Earlier on Saturday, Alliance Air operated a non-commercial “proving flight” on an ATR (turboprop) aircraft to Kochi’s naval base with a team of officials from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and other flight safety officials to examine the feasibility of having operations from the base.
“Flight 9I 105 landed at Kochi at 1240 hrs from Bengaluru and the return flight 9I 106 took off from Kochi at 1345 hrs,” an Air India statement said.
The naval base would be used to operate the 70-seater ATR aircraft.
A list of flight timings of the ATRs that would be operating from the base to Bengaluru and Coimbatore has also been released by the ministry.
“The flight operations between Bangalore and Cochin Naval Airbase will be starting from 20th August morning. More destinations such as Coimbatore, Madurai are also in the pipeline. Other airlines are likely to join this effort too. All possible steps are being taken,” Prabhu said in another tweet.
The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association has, in the meanwhile, written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing their willingness to fly the planes without payment, on voluntary basis, for relief and rescue operations.
“We consider this a unique privilege that we can use to assist in such operations,” the association said in a letter to the PM today.
The association had yesterday in a letter to Air India’s director of finance threatened to stop operations if their flying allowance dues were not paid immediately.
On the other hand, private carriers such as IndiGo and GoAir today said they would be operating additional flights to and from Kozhikode, Coimbatore and Trivandrum from tomorrow till August 25 to different parts of the country.
“IndiGo will ensure to provide cancellation and rescheduling waiver to passengers booked to travel from August 16, 2018, to August 26, 2018,” the airline said in a statement.
GoAir said it will operate special flights to and from Trivandrum airport to Mumbai from August 20 and that all passengers booked to and from Kochi will be accommodated on these flights. It said that impacted passengers to and from Kochi are “not being charged additional fees or cancellation charges keeping in mind the current situation”.
The civil aviation minister, during the day, also appealed to the airline to cap the maximum fare at around Rs 10,000 on longer routes and Rs 8,000 on shorter routes to / from Kerala to nearby airports.
Meanwhile, Jet Airways in a statement said that it will be operating additional domestic flights to Thiruvananthapuram from Mumbai, Bangalore, Dubai and Dammam from August 19.
“For guests with confirmed tickets to and out of Cochin for travel till 26th August, 2018, the Jet Airways has waived off date/ flight change from the original travel date or choosing an alternate destination which is close to Cochin airport, refund, no-show penalties and fare difference if any, due to the closure of the Cochin airport,” it added.
The flood fury has also affected parts of the Kodagu region in southern Karnataka with reports of landslides and loss of life and property.
Meanwhile, the Indian Met Department has projected heavy to very heavy rain over Odisha, Vidarbha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Telangana, Uttarakhand, West UP, East Rajasthan, East Madhya Pradesh, Madhya Maharashtra, Marathawada, Konkan and Goa, Coastal Andhra,Coastal and North Interior Karnataka.