India monsoon floods ‘kill more than 300’ in Kerala

(BBC) – At least 324 people have been killed in flooding in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the regional chief minister says.

Rescuers are battling torrential rains to save residents, with more than 200,000 people left homeless in camps.

The state government said many of those who died were crushed under debris caused by landslides.

With more rains predicted and a red alert in place, the main airport has reportedly been shut until 26 August.

Hundreds of troops have been deployed to rescue those caught up in the flooding, alongside helicopters and lifeboats to rescue those marooned.

The government has urged people not to ignore evacuation orders. It is distributing food to tens of thousands who have fled to higher ground.

“We’re witnessing something that has never happened before in the history of Kerala,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters.

“Almost all dams are now opened. Most of our water treatment plants are submerged. Motors are damaged.”

He added that the failure of the state government of neighbouring Tamil Nadu to release water from a dam had made the situation worse.

He later tweeted that 80 dams had opened, and described the floods as the worst in 100 years.

Kerala has 41 rivers flowing into the Arabian Sea.

Officials say more than 223,000 people are now living in the more than 1,500 emergency relief camps set up in the area.

Parts of Kerala’s commercial capital, Kochi, are underwater, snaring up roads and railways across the state, which is a popular tourist destination.

Some local plantations are reported to have been inundated by water, endangering the local rubber, tea, coffee and spice industries.

India’s Prime Minister and Home Minister have both offered federal support.

Schools in all 14 districts of Kerala have been closed and some districts have banned tourists citing safety concerns.

The Indian home ministry says more than 930 people have now died across India since the country’s monsoon season began in June.