Kerala floods kill 33 more, Centre grants Rs 500 crore
Saturday’s deaths took the toll to at least 226 since flooding began in Kerala on August 18 when rain intensifiedindia Updated: Aug 19, 2018 02:13 IST
Thirty-three more people died on Saturday in floods triggered by 10 days of torrential rainfall in Kerala, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried out an aerial survey of the devastation left by one of the worst natural calamities to hit the state and announced Rs 500 crore in aid, a fourth of the amount sought by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
As the first signs emerged of the rains letting up, relief and rescue teams deployed by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as well as the three armed forces were still engaged in a massive operation — distributing food and other essentials and rescuing the marooned — across Kerala. Even so, the magnitude of the disaster is such that relief supplies couldn’t reach everyone, and many complained of going without food or potable water for days together.
One relief official in Kochi said: “The magnitude of the disaster is really great. We are finding it difficult to manage...”
Saturday’s deaths took the toll to at least 226 since flooding began on August 18 when rain intensified. Revenue officials said at least 20,000 houses had been destroyed and 15,000 partially damaged by the swirling floodwaters and relentless rain, as the state stared at the possibility of epidemic outbreaks when the water that has inundated half the state starts receding .
On Saturday, the fury of the weather showed signs of abating, prompting the authorities to lift the read alert in all but three of Kerala’s 14 districts.
“After August 19 intensity of the rain will decrease. Now red alert will remain only in three districts, Idukki, Ernakulam and Patthanamthitta,” said Thiruvananthapuram’s regional met office director K Santhosh.
Chief minister Vijayan said the situation was under control and domestic air services would start from the Kochi naval base on Monday.
“Large aircraft can’t operate in naval base so we are starting with domestic air service. Initially three domestic routes will be opened and eventually it can increase till the closed Cochin International Airport will be ready,” he said. The flood-hit Cochi airport is closed until August 26.
Southern railway said train services on the Kottayam-Ernakulam section will begin on Sunday on a trial basis. Services on all others suspended routes will also begin shortly.
After his aerial survey, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his “grief and sorrow on the unfortunate deaths and damage caused to property due to floods in Kerala” on Twitter.
He announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh per person to the next kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured, from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. Vijayan said 58,506 people were evacuated on Saturday and said he was confident the rescue operation will be completed by Sunday evening if the weather conditions improve. “People of the state rose to the occasion to face the worst disaster of the century. If this unity and cohesion remains, we can rebuild the affected areas fast,” he said. He praised the Centre for its timely help and the role of central forces in alleviating the suffering of people.
Vijayan put the initial loss to the state at Rs 19, 512 crore. He has sought initial central assistance of Rs.2,000 crore, and the Rs. 500 crore in aid announced by Prime Minister Modi is too little, according to the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishan and Congress party leader Ramesh Chennithala. The Congress has demanded that the floods in Kerala be declared a national disaster.
With the power supply and communications network collapsing in many areas, and amid a shortage of food, water and medicines, the government faces an uphill battle ahead in the aftermath of the diaster, said a senior official who didn’t want to be named. Roads are cut off and public transport virtually non-existent.With all water bodies contaminated, the threat of epidemics is looming.
Families trapped in high rise flats, students stranded in hostels and devotees at places of worship used social media platforms to seek help and relay information about their locations using Google maps. Videos of people pleading for help with folded hands continued to flood social media.
“If help won’t reach, people will die of starvation,” Chengannur MLA Saji Cherian said.
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First Published: Aug 19, 2018 02:13 IST