Thiruvananthapuram: Monsoon rains that have battered Kerala claimed 13 more lives on Sunday raising the total death toll to 370. As rains subsided in most of the state after two weeks of non-stop downpour, the government will now shift their focus to providing help to the displaced population.
Addressing the media on Sunday evening, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the rescue efforts had reached the final phase and most of those stranded had been evacuated. CM Vijayan hailed the rescue efforts made by personnel of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, NDRF, fishermen and locals.
Detailing the scale of the devastation, the CM said that over 221 bridges were damaged and make-shift roads were being constructed. While thanking the central government for its assistance, Vijayan added that the state would still need more help.
The CM announced that Rs 3,000 per day would be given to the fishermen who participated in the rescue operations.
President Ram Nath Kovind had also spoken to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Governor P Sathasivam to enquire about the situation. "Assured the people of the state that entire nation was with them," the Rashtrapati Bhavan tweeted.
The floods are said to be the worst calamity the state has witnessed in a century. The rains and floods have claimed 210 lives since August 8 and nearly 400 since May 29. With several rivers in spate, around 80 dams had to be opened resulting in flooding and heavy loss of life and property.
NDRF personnel hold rescue and evacuation drive at flood-affected regions in Chengannur taluk of Alappuzha on Sunday (Photo: PTI).
Prime Minister Modi on Saturday conducted an aerial survey of the flood hit areas and announced a relief package of Rs 500 crores.
According to estimates the state government has pegged the total damages at over Rs 19,000 crore.
However, in a major respite, the metrology department said on Sunday that the intensity of rainfall over Kerala has decreased over the last two days. It added that there was no alert of heavy rainfalls for the next four days.
Thirteen people were killed and 22,000 were moved to relief camps on Sunday taking the total number of displaced people to 7,24,649 lakh across 5,645 relief camps, Vijayan told reporters after a review meeting.
Even as floods receded, the threat of epidemic and further health concerns loomed over the state. Union Health Minister JP Nadda said that he has spoken to Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja and is personally monitoring the situation.
"We are monitoring the flood situation in Kerala on a regular basis. Secretary (Health) is in constant communication with the state health functionaries and monitoring the situation daily through the disease surveillance network," Nadda said.
Chief minister Vijayan added that in each panchayat, six health officers would be stationed to prevent outbreak of any communicable diseases as the flood water recedes.
In some good news to those travelling in and out of Kerala, commercial flight operations would start from the Kochi naval base on Monday. Flight services in Kochi were disrupted due to the heavy flooding in the airport.
The railways cancelled at least 18 trains, partially cancelled nine others and diverted Kanyakumari-Mumbai CST express train via Nagercoil on Sunday.
Government departments and agencies are working in tandem to facilitate rescue efforts. The department of food and public distribution made available 50,000 million tonnes of food grains (rice and wheat) to meet the immediate requirements with additional quantities in the pipeline. The department of consumer affairs meanwhile made arrangements to airlift 100 metric tonnes of pulses by Monday with additional quantities to be sent by train.
Efforts also being undertaken to restore power and water supply, which took a severe hit because of the torrential rains.
On another note, amid grim news of deluge and devastation, the wedding of a woman sheltered at a relief camp on Sunday brought cheers at the camp in northern Malappuram district. Another endearing moment was the dramatic rescue in Alappuzha by an IAF personnel, where a toddler was reunited with his mother after the IAF officer winched him up from the rooftop of a flooded house.
ITBP personnel hold rescue and evacuation drive at flood-affected regions in Chengannur taluk of Alleppey on Saturday (Photo: PTI).
As the situation improved and water levels slowly began receding, people in relief camps slowly began returning home. However, scores of people were left devastated after they saw their houses being completely inundated or damaged. "Our life has been destroyed. My pension book has gone," said an elderly woman near Kochi.
Near the Nedumbassery airport, bodies of at least 20 animals were spotted being carried away by waters.
As support continued to pour in from around the world, Pope Francis also urged followers to help the state with "concrete support" and prayed for the affected population.