Flash floods kill 27 in south India, prompting US travel alert

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NEW DELHI, Aug 10, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Flash floods have claimed at least 27
lives in the southern Indian state of Kerala, officials said Friday,
prompting the US to advise its citizens to stay away from the tourist
hotspot.

The coastal state, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea
plantations, is battered by the annual monsoon every year but the rains have
been particularly severe this season.

Nationwide, more than 700 people have been killed in monsoon flooding. Last
year 1,200 people perished.

In Kerala the army has been roped in for rescue efforts after two days of
rain that have forced authorities to open the shutters of 24 reservoirs to
drain out the excess water.

Some 20,000 people have been displaced and 260 relief camps have been set
up. Fifty-seven tourists including 24 foreigners were stranded in the hill
station of Munnar.

One of the five shutters of a large reservoir in the mountainous Idukki
district was opened for the first time in 26 years.

“Twenty-four dams have been opened so far, which is unprecedented and is
telling of the seriousness of the situation,” Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi
Vijayan wote on Twitter.

“People living in the downstream areas of these dams must be cautious.”

In view of the devastation, the US embassy Thursday advised its citizens to
avoid the areas affected and constantly monitor local media for weather
updates.

Over a million foreign tourists visited Kerala last year, according to
official data.

The government of Kerala, which has a population of 33 million people, has
imposed a ban on the movement of lorries and tourist vehicles in Idukki.

The monsoon, which lasts roughly from June to September, has claimed more
than 70 lives across the state this year and damaged crops worth millions of
dollars.

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