For the first time since its birth more than a decade ago, the Cochin International Airport Limited closed down its runway and turned away flights due to high-risk weather on Monday morning.
The Periyar crossed its boundaries as the Edamalayar dam, which is 75 km from here, opened its shutters to let go the brimming water on Sunday evening. The cascading effect was felt on the airport as the flood waters inundated the taxi bay and the parking bay. The drainages of the airport clear out the water to Periyar. “But on Monday, there was a reverse flow of water from Periyar after the water level rose,” said airport director A.C.K. Nair.
The airport will remain shut till 3.20 p.m. on Tuesday. Travel plans of thousands of inbound and outbound passengers went awry on Monday. The airport handles about 11,000 passengers on a normal day.
Eighteen international flights were cancelled since the runway was closed at 10.30 a.m. Riyad-Kochi flight of Saudi Airlines was diverted to Chennai, Muscat-Kochi flight of Jet Airways to Thiruvananthapuram and Sharjah-Kochi service and Salalah-Kochi services of Air India Express were diverted to Kozhikode and Thiruvanathapuram. Twenty-eight domestic services were cancelled.
Airlines rang up majority of their passengers to avoid futile trips to the airport. “We will review the situation on Tuesday morning as we cannot take a risk,” CIAL managing director V.J. Kurian told The Hindu.
As the rains continued to pound Nedumbassery and surrounding areas, various airport agencies huddled together around 9.30 a.m to review the situation, and decided to close the runway. A review meeting was scheduled in the afternoon to decide if flight traffic could resume. Some airline even tentatively rescheduled their operations for later in the day. It gave a ray of hope to hundreds of passengers who had checked in. The hopes were dashed when a second review meeting held at 1.30 p.m. decided to suspend services till Tuesday evening to be on the safer side.
Airport officials said certification of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation was not necessary to reopen the runway. “We just need to adopt an inspection protocol laid down by the DGCA and inform them about it. An inspection team comprising of the representatives of CIAL and Airports Authority of India among others will inspect the runway once it is cleaned. That’s what we do even while re-opening runway for operations after closure for routine maintenance works,” an airport official said. Airport helplines are: 3053500; 30535212; 30535213; 30535214 and 2610094.