Rains, landslides kill 24, displace thousands in India’s Kerala state

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People stand on the steps of Aluva Shiva Temple complex submerged in water after the opening of Idamalayar dam shutter following heavy rains, on the outskirts of Kochi, India, August 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Indian residents look at the Shiva Temple submerged after the release of water from Idamalayar dam following heavy rains in Kochi on August 9, 2018. (AFP)
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Water gushes out following heavy rain and landslide in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (AP)
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Indian rescuers conduct rescue operations after a landslide at Kuttampuzha village in Ernakulam district in the Indian state of Kerala on August 9, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2018
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Rains, landslides kill 24, displace thousands in India’s Kerala state

  • The maximum storage level of the reservoir, which is one of the largest arch dams in Asia, is 2,403 feet
  • Kerala has become a leading tourist destination, promoting itself as ‘God’s Own Country’, and has seen a boom in infrastructure

NEW DELHI: Torrential rains and landslides killed at least 24 people in southern India on Thursday, with the authorities opening the shutters of 24 water reservoirs in an unprecedented move to prevent potentially disastrous breaches, officials said.
The June-September rains in Kerala state have cost 175 lives and damaged crops worth 3.42 billion rupees ($49.81 million) across 26,824 hectares (66,284 acres) since their onset on May 29, an official at the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA), who did not wish to be identified, said.
The state meteorological department forecast rains to continue on Friday and return on Monday.
“Kerala has received 17 percent more rainfall so far during the current season compared with last year,” K. Santhosh, Kerala director of India’s Meteorological Department, told Reuters.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced, several are missing, with incessant rains for more than 48 hours in some areas inundating hectares of low-lying land, authorities said.
The National Disaster Relief Force and the armed forces are helping in rescue and relief operations, they added.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “24 dams have been opened so far, which is unprecedented and is telling of the seriousness of the situation.”
The state, which has 44 rivers, witnessed its worst floods in 1924 following torrential rains.
“The situation is grim, especially in the coastal parts of Kerala, given the continuous rains,” P.H. Kurian, State Relief Commissioner and Convenor of KSDMA told Reuters.
One of the five shutters of a large reservoir in northern Idukki district, about 240 km (150 miles) from state capital Thiruvananthapuram, was opened for the first time in 26 years.
The maximum storage level of the reservoir, which is one of the largest arch dams in Asia, is 2,403 feet.
“If the rain continues, the other shutters will also be opened. All residents living along 100 meters of the dam have been asked to relocate to safe places,” a Kerala State Electricity Board official in Idukki, who did not wish to be named, said.
With its sweeping coastline, riverboats and tea plantations, Kerala, about the size of Bhutan, has become a leading tourist destination, promoting itself as ‘God’s Own Country’, and has seen a boom in infrastructure.
“Wetland refilling, encroachment and unauthorized construction in river banks and conversion of paddy fields have affected the flow of water, leading to stagnation and flash floods,” another official at KSDMA said on condition of anonymity.


Sweden’s Center Party to reject Lofven as PM

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 min 49 sec ago
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Sweden’s Center Party to reject Lofven as PM

  • The September election gave neither the center-left nor the center-right a majority, leaving the balance of power with the Sweden Democrats

STOCKHOLM: Attempts to form a new Swedish government were back at square one on Monday after the Center Party said it would vote against Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven’s return as prime minister because he had rejected their policy demands.
Sweden has been without a government since a Sept. 9 election delivered a hung parliament which subsequently voted Lofven out as prime minister after four years in office and then also rejected the candidacy of the leader of the four-party center-right Alliance.
The Center and Liberal parties, nominally party of the Alliance, said last month they were willing to support Lofven if he accepted a number of major policy compromises, including lower taxes and more liberal labor laws.
But Center leader Annie Loof said Lofven had been unwilling to back down on several of their key demands.
“We would have need to see considerably more liberal political reforms in order for the Center party to be able to come to an agreement and allow Stefan Lofven four more years,” Loof told reporters.
The September election gave neither the center-left nor the center-right a majority, leaving the balance of power with the Sweden Democrats, a hard-right anti-immigration party that mainstream groups refuse to deal with.
With no signs of compromise, it is unclear what will happen now. If parliament rejects four prime ministerial candidates, then there will automatically be a fresh election.