Relief teams have been roped in and warnings issued to those living near the Idukki dam in Kerala, following the prospective opening of the dam shutters due to rising water levels.
On Monday, the water levels in the dam rose to 2,394.64 feet due to steady rains. The government will issue an orange alert when the water touches 2,395 feet.
"We have not announced code orange yet. But we have been receiving steady rainfall and are expecting the waters to hit code orange by today evening," said Sekhar Kuraikose, member secretary of Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA).
However, the authorities clarify that an orange alert will not prompt them to open the dam shutters.
"Ideally, we will only open the shutters at 2,400 feet. The dam's maximum capacity is 2,403 feet. Once the water levels reach 2,399 feet, we will issue a red alert and start preparing to open the shutters at Cheruthoni," he said.
A decision will be arrived at with the concurrence of the State Disaster Management Authority, the district administration of Idukki and Ernakulam, government authorities and Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB, which runs the hydroelectric power project of the Idukki dam), and only after the adequate precautionary measures have been taken, Sekhar added.
Idukki Collector Jeevan Babu, however, said that the authorities would be forced to open the shutters if they wait till the water levels reach 2,400 feet. Instead, trial runs of shutter opening will be done in a measured and controlled manner when the water reaches a certain height.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday informed via Facebook that relief teams will be roped in to handle any crisis situation in the event of the dam shutters being opened.
"In the situation where the Idukki dam has to be opened, various teams will be alerted by the State Disaster Management Authority about relief measures. In Ernakulam's Aluva youth hostel, a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel have been deployed. In Thrissur and Idukki too, teams have been stationed," the post read.
Further, the Army, Navy, Air Force and teams of the Coast Guard have been alerted. As per the instructions of the State Disaster Management Authority, an Mi17V helicopter and an ALH helicopter have been readied for the purpose, according to the post.
"Four columns of the Navy and Air Force are ready to be deployed in case of a crisis. In the event where the low-lying areas of Ernakulam district get flooded following the dam's opening, the coast guard teams have been instructed to undertake rescue operations with boats in the area. For now, there is no reason to panic. Timely information will be relayed to people by the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority," the post concluded.
The KSDMA also issued a post warning residents and tourists about the measures to take in case the shutters are opened. In a post on their official Facebook page, the authority asked people to take the following measures, issued in public interest.
1. Tourists must avoid travelling to Vazhathopp, Mariyapuram, Ka
2. Do not cross the river after the water release from the dam starts.
3. Do not crowd small bridges and along the river banks to witness the water release.
4. Avoid taking selfies by standing on bridges and along the river banks in the background of the released flood water.
5. Avoid bathing, swimming, washing and playing in the river.
6. Prepare an emergency kits consisting of a torch, a Radio, 500 ml of water, a packet of ORS, required medicines, antiseptic ointment, one small bottle dettol, savlon etc, 100 grams of Groundnuts, 100 grams of dried grapes or dates, a pocket knife, 10 chlorine tablets for purifying water, one battery bank or necessary batteries to power the torch, fully charged simple feature mobile phone with call balance, money.
7. Ensure that all certificates and valuable jewellery are packed in plastic containers or bags and stored at a height
8. Communicate all information that you receive from official sources to everyone in the house. If you are not in the house, the family should be advised to listen to official directives and move to safe locations without waiting for you.
9. If necessary, panchayath or village officials will direct you to move to identified safe locations. Comply with the directions of the officials. Do not hesitate to seek help.
10. In order to avoid electrocution, switch off the electrical main switch if flood waters enter your building
11. Keep the mobile numbers of your local panchayath or Local Self Government People's Representative.
12. Provide special care to the aged, bed-ridden, people with illness, people with different abilities and children. If there are those with illness, bed-ridden or people with different abilities in your house who needs special attention to evacuate, please inform the nearest police station.
13. Keep all electric and electronic gadgets at a height to avoid inundation
14. Release animals (let them loose) in case you cannot ensure they safe. Animals will swim to safety.
15. Park vehicles in a height such that they are not marooned. Those living in flats shall ensure that their cars are not parked in low lying cellars.
16. Only those who are trained in relief, response and rescue, when requested by District Administration, shall proceed to flood-affected areas. Do not attempt to visit flood-affected areas as tourists.
The authorities also warned people to not panic and spread fake messages which may incite a frenzy.
Further, a list of All India Radio and Doordarshan radio channels in different districts were also mentioned from where people can receive timely information. (TrivandrumMW (AM Channel): 1161 kHz, Alappuzha (AM Channel): 576 kHz, Thrissur MW (AM Channel): 630 kHz, Calicut MW (AM Channel): 684 kHz)
Phone numbers of district emergency operation centres in different districts have also be given. In case of crisis, contact these numbers.
Ernakulam - 0484-1077 (Mobile: 7902200300, 7902200400)
Idukki 04862-1077 (Mobile: 9061566111, 9383463036)
Thrissur 0487-1077, 2362424 (Mobile: 9447074424)