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.


US media: Trump Lawyer Cohen reaches plea deal with prosecutors

Updated 40 min 8 sec ago
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US media: Trump Lawyer Cohen reaches plea deal with prosecutors

  • Michael Cohen, 51, was to appear in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon
  • Reports say prosecutors were focused on more than $20 million in loans obtained by Cohen from taxi businesses

NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in New York, on campaign finance violations, bank fraud and tax evasion, news media outlets reported.
Cohen, 51, was to appear in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, a court official told Reuters.
News that Cohen had entered into a plea agreement followed a reports he was discussing a deal with prosecutors.
A plea bargain could increase legal risks for the president, as it raises the possibility that Cohen will provide information to US Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion and has called the Mueller investigation a witch hunt. Russia has denied meddling in the election. US intelligence agencies have concluded Moscow interfered.
Cohen was part of Trump's inner circle for more than a decade, working as his personal attorney at the Trump Organization and continuing to advise the president after the election. But their relationship has frayed in recent months.
Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, declined to comment. Cohen and another of his lawyers, Guy Petrillo, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the earlier reports.
The probe is being led by the office of US Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan.
Federal agents had seized documents and files from Cohen in April that stemmed from a referral from Mueller's office.
Cohen once said he would "take a bullet" for Trump, but their relationship has deteriorated since the April FBI raid on Cohen's office, hotel room and home.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that federal prosecutors were focused on more than $20 million in loans obtained by Cohen from taxi businesses owned by him and his family.
The loans are part of the investigation into whether Cohen committed bank and tax fraud, and for possible campaign law violations linked to a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Mueller's investigation, which began in May 2017, has resulted in the indictment of more than 30 people and five guilty pleas.
Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is on trial in Alexandria, Virginia, for 18 counts of financial crimes resulting from the Mueller probe. The jury in his case was in its fourth day of deliberations on Tuesday.