Kerala counts its losses: 800,000 displaced, at least 239 dead in floods
With rains abating in most places across flood-ravaged Kerala on Sunday, efforts to rescue thousands of stranded people, deliver aid material and prevent outbreak of disease picked up pace across the state. Thirteen more deaths were reported, taking the toll to 239 in the deluge since August 8.
“There are 7,24,649 people in 5,645 relief camps. Thirteen deaths today. 22,034 have been rescued so far,” said chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a press conference.
“The waters have not fully receded, there is moderate rain in some parts. Rescue work will continue till things go back to normal. Most people will be rescued today and the rescue operation will continue till the last person is rescued,” he said.
Vijayan said that the government was working on disinfection of drinking water sources and ways were being worked out to provide food to those people staying at home and not in relief camps.
Holding out hope for the inundated state, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) announced that it is expected that for the next four-five days, there won’t be any heavy rainfall save in Kozhikode, Kannur and Idduki districts, and rain will gradually decrease.
The red alert across the state was withdrawn on Sunday though heavy rain lashed Chengannur, Pathnamthitta, Aluva and Adoor in the morning. IMD Additional Director General Mritunjay Mohapatra Mohapatra said that there was no red or amber colour code warning for any district on Sunday and for Monday, the colour warning is green, reported PTI.
According to IMD’s four colour-code for intensity of weather, red denotes extreme weather conditions and a need for authorities to take action, amber implies increased likelihood of extremely bad weather and government agencies to be prepared to handle exigencies, yellow means the situation needs to be watched while green signals the weather would be normal.
Rains in the catchment areas of the big dams in Idukki district also subsided, leading to shutting of two of the Idukki dam’s five floodgates. The outflow from both it and Mullaperiyar dam has also reduced, decreasing water flow into the Periyar and its tributaries flowing through Ernakulam and Thrissur.
The Indian Navy has scaled up its rescue efforts – Operation Madad – which is in its 10th day, while the Army, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) remained active, the railways was rushing potable water to the state and Indian Coast Guard ships with relief material were on their way.
The worst-affected places where people have remained stranded for the past three days without food or water include Chengannur, Pandalam, Thiruvalla and several other areas in Pathanamthitta district and Aluva, Angamaly and Paravur in Ernakulam, according to IANS.
Rescue teams were focused on the town of Chengannur on the banks of the Pamba River, where some 5,000 people are feared to be trapped, officials told Reuters.
A rescue boat with six rescuers was reported missing in Pandanad area of Chenganur Saturday night. It was not known if any evacuees were on the boat.
There were some complaints about lack of coordination in the rescue operations.
A group of stranded fishermen who came to help with the rescue work in Alapuzzha from the state capital said they had rescued several people “but now there is no one to help us return to where we came from with our boats”.
“We risked our lives in the rescue work but now there’s no help for us,” the group said.
However, the chief minister announced that the state government will provide free fuel and Rs 3000 per day to fishermen involved in rescue work, lauding their “selfless contribution to the relief effort”. He also said schoolchildren will be provided new textbooks free of cost and the Onam exams have been postponed.
Health minister K.K. Shailaja admitted that though the water level has come down in many areas, medical facilities have not reached everywhere. She also said the state needs a huge quantity of medicines. “A major health drive is being planned to prevent communicable diseases,” the minister added.
Anil Vasudevan, who handles disaster management at the Kerala health department, said authorities had isolated three people with chickenpox in one of the relief camps in Aluva town, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, some transport links were restored with the Kottayam rail sector restarting operations with special passenger trains on Sunday while the state-run Kerala State Road Transport Corporation also restarted operations on the MC Road to Kottayam.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who arrived in the state capital on Sunday, told the media that the central assistance that has been sanctioned was too little and demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi declare the crisis a national disaster.
Incessant rain, floods and landslides have destroyed agriculture crops in over 40,000 hectares have been, officials said. More than 1,000 houses have been completely destroyed and 26,000 have suffered partial damage, they said.
Officials also said 134 bridges and 16,000 km of roads were also completely destroyed, causing a total loss of Rs 21,000 crore.
(With inputs from agencies)
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