Kerala floods: Death toll rises to 245, rescue efforts continue in heavy rain, red alert withdrawn
A red alert across Kerala was withdrawn on Saturday, the alert has been downgraded to orange for 10 districts, and yellow for 2 districts.Updated: Aug 19, 2018 15:28 IST
A red alert across Kerala was withdrawn on Sunday though heavy rain battered Chengannur, Pathnamthitta, Aluva and Adoor in the morning while authorities stepped up efforts to rescue thousands of marooned people, deliver aid material and prevent outbreak of disease. The toll has risen to at least 245 since August 8.
The alert has been downgraded to amber, implying increased likelihood of extremely bad weather and warning people to take precautionary measures, for 10 districts, and yellow, indicating the weather may change or worsen in the next few days, for 2 districts.
Rains in the catchment areas of the big dams in Idukki district have subsided, leading to shutting two of the Idukki dam’s five floodgates. The outflow from both Mullaperiyar and Idukki dams has also reduced, decreasing water flow into the Periyar and its tributaries that flow through Ernakulam and Thrissur.
The Indian Navy has scaled up its rescue efforts – Operation Madad – which is in its 10th day. Southern Naval Command (SNC) rescue teams have been augmented by Gemini boats, divers and other resources from both Eastern and Western Naval Commands of the Indian Navy.
The Army, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are also involved in rescue operations.
Lakhs of people are now in relief camps across Kerala. Over 33 people died in the state on Saturday alone taking the toll to 243 since August 8 while IANS said two more deaths were reported on Sunday.
A rescue boat with six rescuers has been reported missing in Pandanad area of Chenganur Saturday night. It was not known if any evacuees were on the boat.
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 senior official on Saturday said that with many areas reeling under food and power shortage, and thousands still awaiting evacuation despite the massive relief and rescue operation. Some complaints came about lack of coordination between authorities.
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.
VD Sateeshan, a Congress legislator from Paravur, slammed the state health ministry over its failure to send relief teams to affected areas.
But health minister KK Shailaja said that although the water level has come down in many areas, medical facilities might not have reached certain regions yet. 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 (CPI-M) 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, 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)