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Kerala Floods: Death Toll Rises to 231; Govt Seeks Rs 2,600 Crore Package from Centre

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan chaired a meeting of the state cabinet, which decided to seek the special package under the centrally-sponsored schemes, including the flagship rural employment programme MNREGS.

PTI

Updated:August 22, 2018, 4:38 PM IST
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Kerala Floods: Death Toll Rises to 231; Govt Seeks Rs 2,600 Crore Package from Centre
Rescuers evacuate people from a flood-hit locality, in Thiruvananthapuram. (Image: PTI)
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Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi: Kerala on Tuesday sought a Rs 2,600 crore special package from the Centre even as the state struggled to find its feet after the devastating deluge that left 231 dead in a fortnight and displaced over 14 lakh people.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan chaired a meeting of the state cabinet, which decided to seek the special package under the centrally-sponsored schemes, including the flagship rural employment programme MNREGS.

As the cabinet took stock of the havoc caused by the unprecedented floods in a century, the Centre released Rs 600 crore to Kerala and decided to waive customs duty and GST on the relief materials being imported for the affected people.

The central assistance of Rs 500 crore as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rs 100 crore by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had been released on Tuesday, an official spokesperson said in New Delhi.

In another major relief, the United Arab Emirates, home to a large number of expatriates from Kerala, promised an assistance of USD 100 million (about Rs 700 crore) for the state's reconstruction.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, called up prime minister Modi and made the offer for assistance, Vijayan said.

The toll rose to 231 with recovery of eight more bodies from different parts on Tuesday while over 14.50 lakh people are taking shelter in more than 3,200 relief camps a fortnight after a murderous monsoon rampaged through the state in its second spell that began on August 8, the government said.

An all party meeting extended unstinted support for the government's relief and rehabilitation measures with leaders cutting across party lines assuring that they would all work together to rebuild the state.

The day also saw the rail and road networks, badly hit by the floods, being restored in most places, while flight operations from the Cochin International Airport are expected
to resume from August 26.

The airport, among the busiest in the country, had been rendered non-functional since August 14 due to flooding and torrential rains.

India daily rainfall - August 2018

Civil aircraft services are being operated from Naval airport in Kochi since Monday as an interim measure.

The Indian Railways said it has repaired all damaged tracks and restored normal traffic from Tuesday.

Union Tourism Minister K J Alphons flagged the need for ready-to-eat cooked food, doctors and nurses, saying people are now getting back to whatever is left of their homes with the waters receding.

He also appealed to skilled workers like plumbers, electricians and carpenters to come to make homes livable and help the state regain normalcy.

Reflecting the enormity of the situation, there will be no 'Onam' and 'Bakrid' celebrations in many parts of Kerala.

The government and other entities have cancelled events scheduled for August 25 to celebrate Onam that brings together people of all religious faiths, castes and creed in celebration of a good harvest.

The money collected for the celebrations will now be spent on flood relief.

The Muslim festival of Bakrid on Wednesday will also be low key.

Though rains have eased over the last two days, vast swathes of land remain under a seemingly endless sheet of water in Ernakulam, Thrissur, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Kollam districts.

Facing a daunting task, the state government also asked the Centre to enhance its borrowing limit and sought permission to impose a 10 per cent cess on GST to mobilise funds for rebuilding Kerala, where 13 of its 14 districts were ravaged by monsoon rains since the first week of this month.

Under the present arrangement, Kerala can obtain three per cent of its gross state domestic product (GSDP) as loans and wants it to be raised to 4.5 per cent so the state can mobilise an additional Rs 10,500 crore from the open market.

"A comprehensive package for rehabilitation of the flood victims and to rebuild Kerala will be submitted to centre," Vijayan told a press conference.

It was also decided to introduce a special lottery to mobilise funds for the state.

A special session of the state assembly has been convened on August 30 to discuss the situation arising from the calamitous floods.

The chief minister had earlier said the state had suffered damages of about Rs 20,000 crore.

As the massive humanitarian tragedy unfolded in the picturesque state, relief poured in.

Governments of other states, corporate entities and individuals, including small children, have loosened their purse strings.

The state-level bankers committee has decided to declare a moratorium on repayment of agricultural loan for a year.

Though most of those marooned have been evacuated, the state government and defence forces said rescue efforts will continue till the last person was brought to safety.

The government is also preparing a comprehensive health action programme to prevent outbreak of water-borne diseases.

Meanwhile, local MLA Saji Cherian said all the stranded persons in Chengannur, one among the worst affected nearby areas have been rescued.
| Edited by: Parth Sharma
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