Relief in flood-hit Kerala as rain subsides, but nightmare far from over
A total of 33 people died in Keral on Saturday as the overall casualty count in the state rose to over 200.india Updated: Aug 18, 2018 23:12 IST
After three days of torrential rains that flooded almost the whole of Kerala, the weather cleared up a little on Saturday. This allowed the authorities to limit the red alert to just three of the 14 districts in the state.
The weather department’s prediction that conditions should normalise by Sunday came as a welcome relief for the people. Officials, for their part, said that all the marooned people are likely to be rescued in the next 24 hours.
“After August 19, the intensity of rain will decrease. Now, the red alert will remain only in three districts – Idukki, Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta,” said Thiruvananthapuram regional met office director K Santhosh. The state will only see scattered rains in the next 24 hours, he added.
The death toll, however, continued to rise. “ A total of 33 people have died in the state on Saturday,” said Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan as the overall casualty count rose to over 200.
A senior official said that with many areas reeling under food and power shortage, and thousands still awaiting evacuation, the government faces an uphill task in the weeks to come. Since all water bodies were contaminated, the threat of an epidemic also looms large.
The Congress has asked the Centre to declare the floods in Kerala as a national disaster, and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of discriminating between BJP-ruled states and others on the issue of aid. “The Prime Minister must rise above politics and come forward to help the people of Kerala and other states affected by the floods,” said party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala in Delhi.
Kerala opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the Rs 500-crore aid announced by Modi was too little in the face of such a calamity. CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishan also described the quantum of aid as “poor”.
Meanwhile, thousands – including families trapped in high-rise apartments and devotees stranded in places of worship – used the social media to pass on information about their location. Videos of people pleading for help with folded hands continued to flood the Internet. With roads cut off and public transport becoming virtually non-existent, fears of starvation loomed large.
“If help doesn’t reach soon, people will die of starvation,” said Chengannur MLA Saji Cherian.
Paravur MLA VD Satheeshan, who has been trying to gather food and other material for the last five days, rued the lack of coordination between various agencies engaged in rescue work.
Meanwhile, over 54,000 people were rescued from Ernakulam district (mainly the Paravur and Aluva talukas). More than 600 students who had been stranded in a building at the Sree Sankaracharya University campus in Kalady were also evacuated on Saturday, officials said.
Despite the best efforts of the National Disaster Response Force and three armed forces, who have been engaged in distributing food packets and other essential items across the state, marooned people complained about having 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 huge volume of affected people,” a relief official in Kochi said.
Over 3.53 lakh people have been relocated to 3,026 relief camps across the state since the start of the rains. Agricultural crops spread over 40,000 hectares of land have been destroyed, and over 1,000 houses have been completely destroyed.
Officials said 134 bridges and 16,000 km of PWD roads, besides 82,000 km of local roads, were completely destroyed, causing a total loss of Rs 21,000 crore.
(With agency inputs)
- Account number: 67319948232
- Bank: State Bank of India
- Branch: City branch, Thiruvananthapuram
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First Published: Aug 18, 2018 22:24 IST