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Lack of toilets major worry for lakhs huddled in Kerala relief camps

The floods were triggered by 10 days of an unusually heavy bout of rains in Kerala, taking the death toll to 239, and more than 400 since the monsoon started in June.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2018 18:16 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Alappuzha
kerala floods 2018,kerala flood situation,kerala floods affected areas
Flood victims wait for food inside a college auditorium, which has been converted into a temporary relief camp, in Kochi, in Kerala. (Reuters photo)

Residents in relief camps set up after Kerala was hit by a devastating flood, the worst in a century that killed more than 200 people, are struggling to get by.

“Most of these camps remain crowded like marketplaces. That is the reason many dreaded going to these camps. The situation was like that, so we can’t blame the authorities and government,” M Girish, housed in a camp near Chengannur town in one of the worst-hit Alappuzha district, said.

“I have seen death from close range. Life is more important so I don’t have any complaints,” he said.

The floods were triggered by 10 days of an unusually heavy bout of rainsin the state, taking the death toll to 239, and more than 400 since the monsoon started in June. Rainfall in the state during the monsoon has been more than 40% higher than normal, with torrential rain forcing authorities to release water from dozens of dangerously full dams, sending surges into rivers that then overflowed their banks.

Flood victims rest inside a university classroom, which is converted into a temporary relief camp in Kochi in Kerala. (REUTERS)

Like the bulging reservoirs of the state, these camps are also packed to the brim. More than 10 lakh people have been shifted in the 6,000-odd relief camps across the state and many are still being shifted to these overcrowded setups.

They have been queueing up silently with their paper plates in the dotting relief camps. But food is not a worry.

Most of these relief camps have been set up in schools and colleges, which do not have enough toilets to cater to the increasing number of people. Many inmates say they had to wait more than three hours for their morning ablutions.

The worried district administration in Alappuzha has sought the help of non-government organisations and corporate houses to supply them with more make-shift toilets.

“Food here is no problem these days. We heard it is pouring in from different parts. What we need are more toilet facilities and clothes. Some are in same clothes they wore when they were rescued days before,” K Reshmi, who is camping in Pandalam Girls High School, said.

Huddled together without the basic facilities some say they fear a possible outbreak of water-borne and air-borne diseases in the camps. Many patients, evacuated from flooded hospitals, housed in some of these camps are more vulnerable to the unhygienic conditions.

News agency Reuters quoted Anil Vasudevan, a Kerala health department official, as saying that three people with chickenpox had to be isolated in one of the relief camps in Aluva.

And, others said they were being discriminated against after the disaster.

Workers from the northeastern states complained they were shooed away by authorities at some places but later district administrations warned strict action against those who treated them shabbily in the state, which is home to 25 lakh such migrants.

The Odisha government had to request Kerala to provide the minimum assistance to those stranded from the state and not to discriminate against them. Many Odiya workers are engaged in construction work and employed by plywood companies in Kochi and surrounding areas.

“We have over one million people housed in relief camps. The Union government is coordinating well with the state to provide the best care to them. We will ensure a better management and I am sure we will come out of the disaster soon,” said Union minister of state for tourism K J Alphons.

A flood-affected woman receives food inside a college auditorium, which has been converted into a temporary relief camp, in Kochi in Kerala. (REUTERS)

He accompanied both Union home minister Rajnath Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their aerial survey of flood-affected areas in Kerala.

Chalakudy in Thrissur and Chengannur in Alappuzha district have been the worst affected by the flood. Rescuers are now searching inundated houses for bodies of those who trapped in fast-rising waters. At least eight bodies were recovered on Monday and authorities fear more in coming days.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the rescue operation has reached its last leg and will be completed by Monday evening and that top priority will be given to restoring normalcy in the affected areas.

It has been the largest rescue operation in the country’s history involving the state administration, personnel of the armed and paramilitary forces and teeming volunteers. Dozens of helicopters have been dropping tonnes of food, medicine and water over areas cut off due to damaged roads and bridges.

First Published: Aug 20, 2018 17:23 IST