Flash floods and landslides in India's Kerala state caused by incessant monsoon rain since Aug. 7 have claimed at least 23 lives and washed away homes, forcing government agencies and voluntary groups to rush aid to the area. Army, navy and air force personnel were called in to help police and residents manage the disaster in the worst-affected six districts in the central and northern hilly areas of the southern state. As rain continued to lash the state, officials opened the shutters of 24 dams on Aug. 9, including the biggest Idukki Dam
, threatening more areas with floods. "It is a very alarming situation," said state chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, adding that it was the first time that the shutters of so many dams had been opened on a single day. Three shutters of Idukki Dam, the tallest arch dam in Asia, were opened when the water level rose to its capacity. The floods have claimed the lives of 11 people in hilly Idukki, six in Malappuram, three in Ernakulam, two in Kozhikode and one in Wayanad. Six people are also reported missing across Kerala. The situation is likely to worsen, according to K. Santhosh, Kerala director of the Indian Meteorological Department. He predicted heavy rain in several parts of the state through Aug. 11. "Heavy to very heavy rainfall will lash Ernakulam, Idukki and Alappuzha districts on Friday and Saturday," Santhosh told ucanews.com. Church officials are working overtime to rehabilitate affected people, mostly village farmers who have been displaced or have lost their homes and crops. Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese apostolic administrator Bishop Jacob Manathodath
has appealed to church authorities under the diocese to make available churches and other buildings to displaced people. Church officials told ucanews.com that they have directed priests in all parishes to throw open church schools and other institutions to accommodate people besides distributing food, clothes and other relief materials. "The heavy rain and landslides in the state have brought lot of hardship to people. The opening of the dams has caused anxiety among people living on the banks of the Periyar River
. The church should do everything possible to alleviate their hardship," Bishop Manathodath said. He appealed to people to contribute food, clothes and other items to help flood victims. Father Jose Plachikkal, spokesman for the worst-affected Idukki Diocese, said the diocese was fully aware of the gravity of the situation and most residents were affected. But church people have joined local authorities in accommodating people displaced by floods, landslides and the opening of the dams, the priest told ucanews.com. Father Abhilash Chirambikkunnel, an official of Thamaraserry Diocese, said officials were providing schools and other church institutions to accommodate people in Kozhikode and Wayanad districts.
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He said the social service department of the diocese was already working closely with government authorities to identify areas where help is required.