‘Calamity of severe nature’ in Kerala

‘Calamity of severe nature’ in Kerala
A mother with her children inside one of the temporary relief camps in Kochi.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, AUG 20 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 8/20/2018 11:31:14 AM IST


Centre on Monday declared the devastating floods in Kerala a “calamity of severe nature” as the state braced for the gigantic task of reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure and rehabilitation lakhs of people rendered homeless.

The death toll in the current spell of monsoon fury that began on August 8 has risen to 216, officials said, while the total number of deaths since May was likely to touch 400. Many more are still not accounted for, they added.

“Keeping in view the intensity and magnitude of the floods and landslides in Kerala, this is a calamity of a severe nature for all practical purposes,” a Home ministry official said in New Delhi. This categorisation will enable the state get greater monetary and other assistance from the Centre.

Even as the Army, Navy, and NDRF teams continued their rescue efforts, it was the local fishermen who won hearts and praise for rescuing hundreds of people while putting their own lives at risk.

The fishermen have been involved in multiple relief operations in various districts and have rescued thousands of people stuck in flood-affected areas. Fishermen who were involved in rescue operations were offered Rs 3,000 each by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, but the group politely declined stating that they did not want money for saving lives.

Meanwhile, rescuers have also found some bodies as the floodwaters recede, news agency AFP reported.

Though rains that pounded the state over the last few days have abated, over 10 lakh people are still sheltered in relief camps, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said. K Santosh, director of India Meteorological Department’s Thiruvananthapuram centre said all alerts have been withdrawn and the state experienced only light to moderate rainfall Monday. Similar precipitation has been forecast for the next five days.

Efforts were now under way to clear the houses of the debris to make them habitable, officials said, underscoring the need for making available disinfectants like bleaching powder in adequate quantities to prevent outbreak of water-borne diseases.

Relief material, including provisions, water and fuel have started arriving at the Kochi port from different parts of the country, official sources said.

The authorities have started handing out medicine and disinfectants to ward off disease in thousands of relief camps.

Health minister JP Nadda said more than 3,500 medical camps were set up across a region. “There is a requirement for 90 different medicines and the first instalment has reached,” he said.

Kerala faces no shortage of food, at least. Traders had stocked up before the Hindu harvest festival of Onam on Saturday, the chief minister said. Kerala has cancelled all official celebrations of what is usually its biggest festive event.

Aviation regulator DGCA is, meanwhile, monitoring airfares for flights connecting flood-hit Kerala as this is a unique situation of ‘humanitarian crisis’, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said in the national capital.

Not clothes or food, need skilled people to come and rebuild Kerala:  “There will be no electricity in homes, carpentry, plumbing would be gone. We need hundreds of thousands of electricians, plumbers, carpenters to rush to Kerala. We don’t need clothes or food. People with technical capabilities are required to put life back into Kerala,” Union Minister KJ Alphons said.

Applauding the rescue operations, Alphons said: “Today we have close to a million people in relief camps. District collectors are working as coordinators and providing supplies. Central forces are providing amazing service to Kerala,” he said.

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