Worst of rains may be over, but Kerala’s recovery has a long way to go
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Worst of rains may be over, but Kerala’s recovery has a long way to go

Since August 8, some 239 people have died in Kerala floods and more than 700,000 people were taken to relief camps.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2018 11:15 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Kochi and New Delhi
Kerala floods,Kerala flood,Kerala rains
The carcass of a cow lies on the side of a road while an eldery woman is carried to safety from flood waters during a rescue operation by Kerala and Tamil Nadu Fire Force personnel in Annamanada village in Thrissur District, Kerala, on August 19, 2018.(AFP)

Rescuers struggled to reach some pockets still cut off by landslides and raging rivers in Kerala, and the government turned its focus to counting losses and launching a rehabilitation drive that could last months, officials said on Sunday as forecasts suggested the worst of the rains may be over for Kerala.

Since August 8 — the start of an unusually heavy bout of monsoon rains that led to what has been described as Kerala’s worst flooding in nearly a century — some 239 people have died and more than 700,000 people were taken to relief camps, according to figures released by the state government on Sunday.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said much of the rescue operation was likely to be completed by end of Sunday, but “it will continue till the last person is rescued.” The CM added that there were 13 new deaths and some 22,000 people rescued since morning.

At Chengannur in Alapuzha district, at least 5,000 are stranded, according to revenue officials quoted by PTI.

“The waters have not fully receded; there is moderate rain in some parts. Rescue work will continue till things go back to normal,” the CM said at a press conference.

In New Delhi, the National Crisis Management Committee met for the fourth time in as many days.

Union cabinet secretary PK Sinha asked for focus to be shifted to arranging supplies of food, water, medicines and restoration of essential services such as power, fuel, telecom and transport links.

The chief secretary of Kerala too joined the meeting through video link and he informed the NCMC that the situation is gradually improving and the meteorological department has forecast less rainfall from Monday onwards.

Vijayan pegged the value of losses at roughly Rs 19,200 crore — nearly a fifth of what the state had spent for the entire year in 2017-18. According to state disaster management officials, more than 10,000 kilometers of roads and bridges have been damaged. One of the state’s major airports, in Kochi, has been flooded.

Read: As rains begin to subside, Kerala worries about diseases from contaminated flood water

The chief minister said fishermen – who have been among the key rescuers – will be compensated at the rate of Rs 3,000 per day in addition to fuel reimbursements, and students who lost textbooks will be given new ones free of cost.

Help has poured in from across the country for Kerala, with several state governments pledging crores in financial assistance and NGOs collecting items of basic necessities and sending them to the flooded state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced a Rs 500-crore financial package to help Kerala, an offer that his rivals and some in the state’s ruling CPI(M) said was inadequate.

In the coming days, the biggest concerns for officials include staving off disease outbreaks. Anil Vasudevan, a Kerala health department official, was quoted by news agency Reuters as saying that three people with chickenpox had to be isolated in one of the relief camps in Aluva.

Read: Kerala woman refuses to leave flooded house without her 25 dogs

The task is exacerbated by a lack of coordination and adequate manpower. VD Sateeshan, a Congress legislator from Paravur, Ernakulam, criticised the state health ministry over its failure to send relief teams to all regions.

In response, health minister KK Shailaja said that medical facilities might not have reached certain regions due to the magnitude of the crisis. “This is because medical professionals found it difficult to reach the affected areas and by now it has been almost resolved,” the minister said.

She added that medical teams from neighbouring states were on the way.

A group of stranded fishermen who came to help with the rescue work in Alapuzzha from the state capital complained of lack of coordination between authorities. “We 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, according to PTI.

As the rain abated, one resident in Cheranelloor, a suburb of Kochi, visited his home to see when he and his family could return. “The entire house is covered with mud. It will take days to clean to make it livable. All our household articles, including the TV and fridge have been destroyed,” 60-year-old TP Johnny told Reuters.

(With agency inputs)

TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE KERALA GOVERNMENT’S RELIEF FUND:
Account number: 67319948232
Bank: State Bank of India
Branch: City branch, Thiruvananthapuram
IFS Code: SBIN0070028
PAN: AAAGD0584M
Name of Donee: CMDRF
Kerala helpline numbers
Kasargode: +91 9446601700
Kannur: +91 944 6682300
Kozhikode: +91 944 6538900
Wayanad: +91 807 8409770
Malappuram: +91 938 3463212
Malappuram: +91 938 3464212
Thrissur: +91 944 7074424
Thrissur: +91 487 2363424
Palakkad: +91 8301803282
Ernakulam: +91 790 2200400
Ernakulam: +91 790 2200300
Alappuzha: +91 477 2238630
Alappuzha: +91 949 5003630
Alappuzha: +91 949 5003640
Idukki: +91 906 1566111
Idukki: +91 938 3463036
Kottayam: +91 944 6562236
Kottayam: +91 944 6562236
Pathanamthitta: +91 807 8808915
Kollam: +91 944 7677800
Thiruvananthapuram: +91 949 7711281

First Published: Aug 19, 2018 22:59 IST