Nearly 2 dozen killed, dams opened as monsoon rain inundates southwestern India

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Nearly 2 dozen killed, dams opened as monsoon rain inundates southwestern India

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Historic number of dams opened as deadly monsoon rain strikes southwestern India
By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
August 10, 2018, 12: 59:37 PM EDT

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A record number of dams have been opened after torrential monsoon rain left more than two dozen people dead in southwestern India.

Flooding, landslides and collapsed houses due to heavy monsoon rain are being blamed for the deaths of nearly 30 people in Kerala since Wednesday, according to the Times of India, with landslides taking the brunt of the blame.

Nearly 54,000 people have been left homeless and are seeking shelter in 439 relief camps across the state.

Rainfall in nearby Kochi totaled 46 mm (1.81 inches) from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday morning, local time.

India flooding Aug 9

A car is submerged as roads and houses are engulfed in water following heavy rain and landslide in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. Landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains have killed more than a dozen people in southern India, cutting off road links and submerging several villages. (AP Photo)

Heavy rain amounted to 63 mm (2.49 inches) in the 24 hours ending on Wednesday morning at Honavar, while Thiruvananthapuram received 56 mm (2.20 inches) of rain from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning.

Rising water levels have pushed many dams to near capacity, according to Hindustan Times. As a result, shutters of at least 24 reservoirs in Kerala have been opened to release the excess water. Never before in the history of the Indian state have so many dams been open, the Times of India reported.

All five shutters of the Idukki reservoir’s Cheruthoni Dam were opened for the first time in 40 years on Friday.

Dams downstream will have to be opened to ease the pressure of the increased water flow coming from the Cheruthoni Dam. Families living in low-lying areas along the Periyar River, which flows away from the dam, have b een evacuated.

An end to the bouts of monsoon rain streaming onto the southwestern coast of India is not expected through at least next week. There are indications that downpours may further increase in coverage and intensity from this weekend to the first half of next week.

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Additional substantial rain can exacerbate ongoing flooding or trigger new problems. More landslides can be triggered and threaten lives and property.

Runoff from the torrential rain can further bring rivers out of their banks and put a strain on the dams throughout the region.

Rising river levels have already led to flooding in the low-lying areas of Kochi. As a precautionary measure, the city's international airport halted arrival operations on Thursday.

Normal operations resumed on Friday as the "water level in the adjacent canal is still manageable," according to the airport.

India flooding 2 Aug 9

Water gushes out following heavy rain and landslide in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. Landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains have killed more than a dozen people in southern India, cutting off road links and submerging several villages. (AP Photo)

There are also fears that the f loodwaters may contaminate Kochi's drinking water, Hindustan Times reported. Schools, colleges and offices in Ernakulam and Thrissur districts have been closed.

Landslides blocking roads have reportedly left dozens of people stranded at a resort in Munnar. Farther north, Hindustan Times reported that landslides completely cut off Wayanad district.

The army was brought in to clear roads in both situations.

Elsewhere across India, downpours will be most numerous and threaten to cause flash flooding from Uttar Pradesh to easternmost Maharashtra to Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

Such downpours will graze New Delhi at times, leading to travel disruptions.

"After late-week rain, northwestern India from Rajasthan to Gujarat will turn drier this weekend," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said.

That is not a sign that the monsoon is over for these areas.

India weather Aug 10

"The heaviest rain will ebb and flow across northern India during the next two weeks," Nicholls said. "One monsoon low will shift the focus of heavy rain from east to west across northern India next week, a pattern we should see repeated the following week."

Nicholls anticipates the first monsoon low to return rain to Rajasthan and Gujarat later next week.

Monsoon downpours will also frequent northeastern India during this time, but the same cannot be said for southeastern India.

"As is typical, Chennai and other areas of southeastern India should not get much rainfall," Nicholls said. "Their rainy season does not unfold until the October-to-December time frame."

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