The south Indian state of Kerala has been hit with the highest rainfall in a century leaving more than 300 dead, after widespread flooding submerged roads, power lines went down and dams reached bursting point.
Pinarayi Vijayan, the state’s chief minister, said on Twitter: “Kerala is facing its worst flood in 100 years. 80 dams opened, 324 lives lost and 223,139 people are in about 1500+ relief camps.”
The 324 death toll includes fatalities from a previous bout of monsoon storms last month, and includes the fatalities since last week which is thought to be up to 175.
Narendra Modi, the prime minister, was due to reach Kerala Friday evening to help manage the disaster, after attending the funeral of the former Indian leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in Delhi.
A red alert has been issued in all 14 Keralan districts, with the central government activating all three wings of the armed forces in a gargantuan rescue operation. Helicopters airlifted people from their roofs and dam gates were flung open as torrential rain battered the state non-stop for nearly a fortnight.
Speaking to The Telegraph from Kochi, he said: “It’s still raining so heavily it’s not safe for air travel really, but even many of the roads across the state are submerged or slippery. But we hope that in two or three days the storms will break, and we can try and get on with rebuilding.
“While many parts of Kochi are not too bad, some areas around it, especially near the Periyar River are badly flooded."
People stranded in the hill station of Munnar, one of the main tourist sites in Kerala, say hotel rooms lie vacant, most places have lost power and there’s little phone reception, with roads submerged by mud.
Officials warn that hospitals in the state are facing a shortage of oxygen and petrol stations are running dry. The fierce storms have caused grave damage to crops and properties that the state estimates to be over Rs 80bn (£1bn).
Several appeals have been launched online and tech companies joined the rescue efforts. Amazon India has appealed to customers to donate clothing and items for shelters, while Google and Facebook developed tracking programs to help find stranded people.
Domestic airlines have been asked to keep a fixed maximum on air fares for flights to and from Kerala by the central government, and telecom companies pledged free call and data services for users in the state during the crisis.
Kerala is a popular destination for foreign and Indian visitors due to its idyllic beaches and rivers, picturesque houseboats and fresh seafood. Over 1 million foreign tourists visited the state last year, according to official data.