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Kerala begins cleaning debris after flood, electricians and plumbers chip in

Most people in the Kerala are slowly going back to their homes as the flood water has receded. But more than 13.43 lakh people are still lodged in 3,520 relief camps across the flood-hit state.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2018 14:18 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala floods,Kerala flood,Kerala clean up operations
A man cleans up his house after flood water subsides, in Puthenvelikkara near Kochi.(PTI Photo)

Thousands of electricians, plumbers and volunteers on Thursday began cleaning houses and public places of slush and debris dumped by the floods across Kerala as people trickled back to their homes from relief camps.

The government has set up a control room in Thiruvananthapuram to coordinate the cleaning process across the state and the civic bodies have been entrusted with the task of managing the work, PTI reported quoting an unnamed official.

Haritha Kerala Mission, which integrates waste and water resources management and organic farming, would also work towards the cleaning process and deploy 50 high-power pump sets in different areas by Friday.

Most people in the state are slowly going back to their homes as the flood water has receded but more than 13.43 lakh people are still lodged in 3,520 relief camps across the southern state.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who held a series of review meetings and monitored the rescue operations during the period of crisis, visited some camps in Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta, where angry people complained about the lack of facilities.

The Kerala Water Authority has taken steps to supply drinking water in affected areas, state water resources minister Mathew T Thomas said. Thomas said out of the 1,089 water supply schemes affected due to the floods, more than 800 have started functioning and that efforts were on to make others functional.

Experts have said it will take at least a decade for the state to recover from the massive devastation caused by the floods from the onset of the monsoon.

Row over aid continues

The state’s estimated loss after the devastating flood is Rs 20,000 crore, according to a preliminary estimate. It had sought an interim assistance of Rs 2,600 crore from the Centre, besides a special package of a similar amount under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA).

However, a political row has erupted over accepting foreign aid.

The state finance minister TM Thomas Isaac accused the Centre of adopting a “negative stance” as it indicated it is unlikely to accept any foreign financial assistance for flood-relief operations in Kerala after the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) offer of around Rs 700 crore in aid.

“We made no request to any foreign gov but UAE gov voluntarily offer 700cr. No, says Union gov, it is below our dignity to accept foreign aid. This is a dog in the manger policy,” he tweeted.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front government in the state has said foreign aid should be accepted as the Centre seemed unlikely to change its 15-year-old policy of not accepting bilateral financial assistance for rescue and relief operations.

Chief minister Vijayan said on Wednesday that there were no obstacles to receive foreign aid as per the National Disaster Management (NDM) Policy announced by the Centre. He had also said that if there were any hurdles, the state would approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clear them.

An official familiar with the development said that India may, however, not be averse to treating some offers as “humanitarian aid or reconstruction plans under other schemes”. The details of the schemes could be worked out later, the people, who are in the know of the issue, added.

The central government has announced Rs 600 crore in aid, and also assured relief materials including food grain, medicines would be provided, as requested. Several states have also pitched in.

Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who resumed office on Thursday after a two-week absence for follow up treatment in the US, was the latest to offer an Rs 5-crore aid to Kerala.

“Goa stands in solidarity with the people of Kerala,” Parrikar said.

Parrikar’s office has also asked government employees and employees of government-funded autonomous bodies to “voluntarily contribute their one day’s salary towards flood relief work in Kerala.

Several ministers in Goa, including tourism minister Manohar Ajgaonkar and water resources minister Vinod Paliencar, have promised to contribute one month’s salary to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. The opposition Congress also has asked all of its sixteen MLAs to donate one month’s salary to Kerala.

The Centre has declared the devastating floods in Kerala a “calamity of severe nature” during which more than 370 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes.

First Published: Aug 23, 2018 14:17 IST