Tragedy of Kerala floods unfolds: Bodies found floating, roads cut off, food and medicines scarce

More funds poured in for Kerala, which is battling the worst floods crisis its had in a century, as the Prime Minister conducted an aerial survey of the affected areas and announced a Rs 500 crore aid from the Centre.

india Updated: Aug 18, 2018 21:16 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala floods,Kerala floods 2018,Kerala flood
A woman cries as she holds her son after they were evacuated from a flooded area in Aluva in Kerala, on August 18, 2018. (Reuters)

At least 23 more deaths were reported across rain-devastated Kerala on Saturday with 15 bodies of the victims seen floating on flood waters even as rescue and relief operations continued across the state on a war-footing.

But with power supply and communication links snapped, shortage of food, potable water and medicines and scores of people awaiting evacuation from affected areas, the government has an uphill task ahead.

Prime minister Narendra Modi, who had reached the state on Friday night, announced an interim relief of Rs 500 crore for Kerala after holding a high-level meeting with state chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other officials on Saturday. He also announced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh per person to the next kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000.

The state government however sought emergency relief of Rs 2,500 crore from the Centre, saying Kerala has suffered losses of Rs 25,000 crores.

After the meeting, the prime minister conducted an aerial survey of the flooded area, primarily covering Kochi and Idukki. Earlier he had to call off the survey as his chopper was called back minutes after it took off amid heavy rains in Kochi .

Torrential rains have battered God’s own country since August 8, leaving over 200 people dead in the last 10 days in landslides and floods in what is the worst natural disaster to hit the state in a century. Out of the total casualties, 150 are said to have lost their lives in the last two days.

The weather department on Saturday held out hopes of respite, holding the intensity of rains has decreased and the situation will improve from Tuesday.

Read | For Kerala’s flood disaster, we have ourselves to blame

With roads cut off and public transport virtually non-existent, there are now fears of starvation. “If help won’t reach people will die of starvation,” said Chenganur MLA Saji Cherian.

An estimated four lakh people are now in relief camps, official said.

A massive relief and rescue operation involving the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, NDRF and volunteers continues to be underway. IAF rescue teams are also providing relief materials to stranded people.

However, despite their best efforts, marooned people complained that they had to survive without food or potable water for many days. “The magnitude of the disaster is really great. We are finding it difficult to manage such a volume of affected people,” a relief official said in Kochi on Friday.

More aid poured in from around India, with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announcing all MLAs and MPs of his Aam Aadmi Party would donate a month’s salary, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik announcing Rs 5 crore, and his Bihar and Haryana counterparts Nitish Kumar and Manohar Lal Khattar, Rs 10 crores each. Medicines worth Rs 1 crore were sent from Tamil Nadu.

The United Arab Emirates announced it will be forming a committee to help flood-hit areas of Kerala.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday urged prime minister Modi to declare the Kerala floods a national disaster as the “lives, livelihood and future of millions of our people is at stake.”

It’s pouring trouble in Kerala
Kerala is witnessing its worst floods since 1924, when 3,338 mm of rain poured, in which hundreds of people have died and over two lakh people have been left homeless. Here, is district-wise distribution rain and history of rainfall in the state
1924 FLOOD
A total of 3,368 mm of water poured in 1924, worst flood of Kerala
The heavy rainfall for three weeks submerged entire state n Mullaperiyar Dam gave away and entire hill called Karinthiri Malai was washed away
1,000 plus people said to have died
RAINFALL PATTERN
In long-term south-west monsoon rainfall declining in Kerala
1901-1930: More than normal rainfall
1930-1980: Normal rainfall
1981-2005: Deficient rainfall
2005-2016: Deficiency increases
236 mm Overall decline since 1901
1901-2016 The number of deficit rainfall years was 24 and the number of excess years 19
Decline more in predominant monsoon months—June & July
August and September rains have remained almost same
Half of 2191 mm in 2018 in August
Southwest monsoon declining while post-monsoon rain on increase
Sources: IMD, Study on Rainfall trends in twentieth century over Kerala and Kerala government

Trapped persons made urgent appeals on social media for help, saying they cannot make contact with rescue services as power and communication lines are down.

Families trapped in high rise flats, students stranded in hostels and devotees in churches used social media platforms to seek help and pass on information about their location using Google maps. Videos of people pleading for help with folded hands, are being posted and shared by hundreds of people on WhatsApp groups.

Kerala is witnessing its worst floods since 1924, when 3,338 mm of rain poured, in which hundreds of people have died and over two lakh people have been left homeless. Here, is district-wise distribution rain and history of rainfall in the state

Chief minister Vijayan termed the situation as “really serious”. He said that although two lakh people have been shifted to as many as 1,568 relief camps, many are still stranded. Air, railway and road services remained disrupted in many areas for over five days, and marooned people flooded government and media offices with desperate phone calls. Fresh landslides were also reported from Wayanad and Kannur districts.

“We are trying our best to rescue marooned people. Saving lives is our main concern now. Rescue operations are being taken up on a war footing with choppers and boats,” Vijayan said, adding that over 15,000 people were evacuated in the last two days. He dispelled reports that a few dams in the state were in the danger of bursting.

First Published: Aug 18, 2018 09:09 IST