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Armed with Gumboots and Mops, Massive Volunteer Army Gets Cracking in Flood-Hit Kerala

The fervour of the drive was evident from the preventive measures taken to ensure no one entered the affected houses without proper headgear, masks and gumboots.

Aishwarya Kumar |

Updated:August 29, 2018, 10:22 AM IST
Armed with Gumboots and Mops, Massive Volunteer Army Gets Cracking in Flood-Hit Kerala
People geared up with appropriate equipment arrive at the spot. (Image: Aishwarya Kumar/News18)
Kuttanad: Kerala, which is gradually coming to terms with the worst floods in nearly a century, on Tuesday morning witnessed close to 60,000 volunteers descending on the Kuttanad district in what is being termed as the biggest clean-up drive in the state.

Armed with wipers, mops and disinfectants and other cleaning equipments, thousands of men and women started work in the affected areas at the crack of the dawn.

The fervour of the drive was evident from the preventive measures taken to ensure no one entered the affected houses without proper headgear, masks and gumboots.

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People from all walks of life arrive in trucks for the clean-up drive.

A number of volunteers from Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) (SUCI) were seen cleaning the roads in Kuthizhachal and Kunnumadi colony in Neerattupuram. Some volunteers, not wanting to wait for the gear to reach them, started work without gumboots and masks.

“Our gear will arrive soon but we need to clean this area up soon. We’ve all taken the medicines (that fight bacterial infections),” one of the volunteers said, dismissing concerns of catching diseases. SUCI has hundreds of engineering and medical student volunteers on ground from far off places like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Satishan, in-charge, SUCI Kuttanad, said work was being done on a war footing and they had already cleaned up a school.

The volunteers from PICCOS busied themselves with fixing the electricity and plumbing problems in the affected houses. Apart from offering their professional services, electricians, plumbers, painters and carpenters cleaned houses too. Babu, a project manager at PICCOS, told News18 that 30 people from his organisation are assisting round-the-clock in the Kuttanad district.

College students from Thiruvananthapuram and volunteers from NSS and railways also helped with cleaning.

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In Thalavady, NSS workers and people from the Railways ministry have got about 80 workers in total to clean up a school.

Asha workers and ward members were seen standing in Ramangiri, handing out the necessary items required for cleaning houses. Every volunteer was then made to take a dose of Doxycyclin, a medicine administered to avoid leptospirosis.

Interestingly, the drive also saw the coming together of different ideologies. While such a unity was visible initially during the disaster, things had gone south after the Opposition accused Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of not having necessary action in Alappuzha district, with regards to alerts and warning people, and also for lying about aid from the UAE.

On Tuesday, while there were thousands of volunteers from Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), there were many from Seva Bharti as well, the community service wing of the RSS. Thousands in Kuttanad had come from Pinarayi, the CM’s hometown. It was a wave of red as DYFI guys took over auditoriums and created batches of people to be sent out to various wards. They were helped by officials on the same. PWD minister G Sudhakaran was seen cleaning soiled floors. Ministers from other states have also arrived in Kuttanad for the drive.

Speaking to News18, a Seva Bharti official said the organisation had started work in Kuttanad almost a week ago and that it was on Tuesday that the communist party supporters and members had reached. “But we are happy that everyone is at it. Our priority is cleaning the place and ensuring that people have homes to live in. Everyone must come together for that,” he said.

Help had reached this area after almost three days on Tuesday as the weather conditions were not conducive earlier. Several houses and shops are under water and the areas where the water has receded paints a challenging picture of how the rescue would have been conducted. Narrow lanes lines with farms that were flooded with water are now full of slush and mud and waste, both from houses and otherwise

Kuttanad and Chengannur have been most affected by the floods that hit Alappuzha. Kuttanad, in fact, experiences extreme water logging (if not a major flood) every year during monsoons. It’s one of the few places in the world where farming is done 4 to 10 feet below the sea level.​

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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