The Cochin International Airport on Wednesday suspended all flight operations till Saturday as the aerodrome was flooded following unabated rains and the opening of dam shutters in the Periyar river, prompting authorities to divert all incoming and outgoing flights to Thiruvananthapuram or Calicut.
The Civil Aviation Ministry acceded to the state's request to utilise other airports in Kerala, instead of diverting the flights to Mumbai and other places.
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted, "We have asked all airlines, domestic and foreign, to reschedule their Cochin flights either from Trivandrum or from Calicut. For international flights, this will require special dispensation which has been granted considering the emergency. DGCA is coordinating."
To the state government's request to allow small aircraft to land at the naval airport in Kochi, the minister said they were exploring alternative landing places for small aircraft.
"Airport #Kochi is not operating flights as runway is flooded.We shall explore possibilities of smaller aircraft's landing at alternate authorised landing places,will ensure all rescue operations will get full assistance from aviation ministry,will coordinate all with state Govt (sic)," he said in another tweet.
The minister also said that he had directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Airport Authority to provide call centre facility to all stranded passengers as well as to provide requisite support to all rescue agencies so that "we ensure best possible solution to those unfortunately suffering from fury of nature".
Earlier, Kerala Chief Minster Pinarayi Vijayan called an urgent meeting at the Secretariat.
The chief minister asked officials to make necessary arrangements to take passengers, who may be landing in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, to their respective places by state-run buses.
The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), which decided to suspend the arrival operations at 4 am to 7 am today as a precautionary measure, had earlier said the airport would be shut till 2 pm.
It later issued another advisory saying the operations have been suspended till Saturday afternoon.
A spokesperson of the airport said, "Kochi Airport operations have been temporarily suspended till Saturday 2 pm as the inflow of water is still on a rising trend. We are working hard to drain out the storm water."
An official statement said the state government would soon approach the Civil Aviation Ministry asking whether small flights to Kochi could be allowed to land at the naval airport.
In the morning hours, passengers faced problems due to suspension of operations as they had already reached the airport to catch flights. They complained of not getting assistance from any authorities.
"Monitoring situation arising out of unprecedented #KeralaFlood to mitigate challenges faced by passengers.Working with state government to ensure proper movement as much as possible in given situation.Airports Authority, DGCA,Secy all directed to provide best possible assistance(sic)," Prabhu tweeted.
Rains in the state have claimed 47 lives, officials said, adding a red alert has been sounded in 12 of the 14 districts.
According to weathermen, heavy rainfall accompanied by gusty winds with speed reaching 60 kmph, is expected in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Kozhikode districts.