The death toll due to rains and floods in Kerala has gone up to 357 this monsoon season, as 22 more deaths were reported on Saturday even as around 50,000 people were rescued in different parts of the state, and red alert continued in 11 districts following prediction of more rains.
The India Meteorological Department forecast on Saturday afternoon that widespread rains, with heavy rains in isolated places, is likely to continue over Kerala following low pressure area very likely to develop over northwest Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood during the next 24 hours.
While around 50,000 people were rescued in districts like Ernakulam, Chengannur, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur, there are still many more waiting to be rescued.
Barring Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kasargode, the remaining 11 districts of Kerala continued to be on red alert and can expect more rains.
The worst affected places include Aluva, Chalakudy, Chengannur, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta, where massive rescue operations were on as scores of persons were rescued.
Media houses continued to be flooded with requests from friends and relatives of those stranded in affected areas.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a review meeting in Kochi that the death toll since May 29 had climbed to 357. Over 3.53 lakh affected persons had been lodged in over 2,000 relief camps, he said.
Modi sanctioned Rs 500 crore to the flood-battered state, apart from Rs 100 crore announced earlier by the Centre on August 12, before returning to Delhi after an aerial survey of the affected areas.
The 22 deaths reported during the day were in Ernakulam, Thrissur, Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts.
Vijayan told the media here the situation is “very serious and grave”.
“The death toll would have been higher, but for the work we did. Things are under control,” said Vijayan, whose government was flayed by Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala for failing to take up rescue and relief work effectively.
Food Minister P. Thilothaman, camping at Chengannur, told the media: “The need of the hour is to provide food packets and drinking water to the people. About 15 small boats of the Navy are expected to join rescue and relief work. But, after dusk, no rescues are possible. Helicopters are also needed for faster evacuation.”
Meanwhile, anger mounted across Kerala as coordination of rescue work went haywire due to the magnitude of the calamity.
“There are several people who are waiting to be rescued in areas like Pandanad (near Chengannur) and I saw two bodies floating in the water. If there is anymore delay in, things will taken a turn for the worse. We are drinking rain water to keep us going…,” said a resident of Pandanad.
On late Saturday evening, a 150-member National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team started rescue operations in and around affected areas of Chengannur.
Congress legislator V.D. Sateeshan, who was spearheading the rescue operations in Paravur in Ernakulam district, said that he stood before a rescue boat team with folded hands and they obliged and rescued several people.
“In the camp at my place, there are 7,000 people and despite passionate pleas this camp has not received any government help at all. Several people have to take medicines for lifestyle diseases, but no medical kits have come. I have spoken to the Chief Minister down to all… All I got is assurances,” said Sateeshan.
National award winning actor Salimkumar, after remaining holed up in his house along with 45 others for three days, was finally rescued by a fishing boat on Saturday evening.
“I was receiving daily calls from NDRF officials even from Delhi that rescue will happen very soon, but help came after three days,” said Salimkumar.
Flaying the state for “failing in the endeavour”, Leader of Opposition Chennithala said: “I have been flooded with calls from the affected persons. Even now, thousands of people are stranded. The Chief Minister dismissed with contempt when I said this week that rescue and relief should be handed over to the Army. I do not want to blame anyone but it has been proved beyond doubt that the state government has failed.”
Alappuzha Superintendent of Police A.P. Surendran said: “Things are moving fast on Saturday. Helicopters and more boats have been pressed into service. We are confident we will be able to rescue more stranded people.”
More fishing boats from various places reached the affected areas during the day.
Alappuzha District Collector S. Suhas said since morning 150 boats including house boats have been engaged in rescuing people and “today (Saturday) we have by now evacuated about 75 per cent of people who were waiting to be rescued”.
“Around two lakhs people are now in various camps. This could well be the biggest rescue operation. At some places the water is very rough and various types of boats are rescuing people,” Suhas .
Journalist-turned-CPI-M legislator Veena George on Saturday turned critical “due to the way the government machinery in Pathanamthitta has been working”.
“None has a clue of how many people have been rescued and how many are left to be rescued. There seems to be disconnect in coordination of the operations,” said George.
The situation in Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad and Wayanad inched towards comparative normalcy as rains slowed and water level receded, with many living in crowded relief camps awaiting to return home.
But a landslide near Nelliyampathy in Palakkad district has left around 1,000 people cut off from the mainland and the Army is working to clear the debris.
At several places in waterlogged areas, banks could not function normally since staff failed to report for the duty due to flooding.
Railway services between Ernakulam and Thrissur remained suspended on Saturday with long-distance trains diverted via the Nagercoil route.
A trial run on the Kottayam sector took place later in the day, as all services on this route were suspended for the past two days.
Certain blockades on the Thrissur-Palakkad-Aluva highway was cleared for traffic. Army personnel worked hard to clear the roads to Munnar.
Kerala is facing the heaviest rains and consequent widespread floods and destruction since 1924, which the state estimates has caused a loss of over Rs 19,500 crore.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced Rs 500 crore financial assistance for flood-ravaged Kerala where hundreds of people have died, lakhs have been rendered homeless and property worth millions of rupees has been destroyed in one of the worst floods and torrential rain in recent history.
The Prime Minister, who flew from Delhi on Friday night, made an aerial assessment of the damage caused by the floods. However, the survey was done only in some of the affected areas due to bad weather.
Overflowing rivers and a series of landslides have caused the death of 180 people as of Saturday morning, with over three lakh people forced to move to some 2,000 relief camps.
The aerial survey of the massive loss and destruction triggered by the torrential rains was initially called off due to bad weather.
Following the cancellation, Modi chaired a meeting with Governor P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other officials and witnessed a video presentation of the widespread destruction across the state.
“The Prime Minister announced a financial assistance of Rs 500 crore to the state. This is in addition to Rs 100 crore announced on August 12. He assured the state government that relief materials including foodgrains, medicines would be provided, as requested,” an official statement said.
Modi also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
Insurance companies were also directed to hold special camps for assessment and timely release of compensation to the affected families and beneficiaries under social security schemes. Directions have also been issued for early clearance of claims under the Fasal Bima Yojna for farmers.
The statement said villagers, whose houses have been destroyed in the floods, would be provided Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin houses on priority.
“The Prime Minister complimented the state government for the efforts made in meeting the challenges of the unprecedented situation. He observed that rescue of people who are still marooned remains the topmost priority,” the statement said.
The disaster has triggered an unprecedented rescue and relief operation led by the Army, the Air Force and the Navy along with teams of National Disaster Response Force involving about 1,300 personnel and 435 boats.
Thirty eight helicopters have been deployed, apart from 20 aircraft used for ferrying resources.
The Army has deployed 10 columns and 10 teams of Engineering Task Force (ETFs) involving around 790 personnel.
The Navy has provided 82 teams, the Coast Guard 42 along with two helicopters and two ships.
Five Companies of paramilitary troops have also been deployed for rescue and relief measures.
Nearly, 7,000 persons have been rescued since August 9 and some 900 given medical assistance.
Heavy rain leading to landslides and flooding continued to lash Karnataka’s Kodagu district, Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said on Saturday.
“Rains have been causing massive damage in Kodagu. The state officials, along with Indian Army troops, Navy divers are carrying out rescue and relief operations on war-footing,” Kumaraswamy told reporters here.
Kodagu is one of the districts in the southern state worst hit by the south-west monsoon rains since June first week.
The landslides and heavy rain have claimed six lives in the district since Thursday, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said.
According to the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC), the district received a maximum rainfall of up to 25.3 cm and an average rainfall of 11.9 cm over the past 24 hours.
Located in the Western Ghats mountain ranges, the incessant rain has been causing landslips across the region, making rescue operations difficult.
According to local media, hundreds of people remain stranded on various hills of the district.
Telecom services, disrupted due to the rain and strong winds uprooting poles and snapping phone lines, are being restored on priority, Kumaraswamy said.
“About 60 Dogra Regiment soldiers and 12 expert naval divers rescued 873 marooned people in the flood-hit district, where overnight heavy rain caused landslides and inundated low-lying areas at Makkanduru,” a statement from the CMO said on Friday night.
The Army’s engineering task force deployed 73 boats, equipment and rafts in rescuing the people and escorting them to safer places in the district.
About 60 members of the national and state disaster relief forces and 45 members of the civil defence joined the rescue and relief operations with boats and equipment in Madikeri in the hilly district.
The Indian Air Force, which could not airlift stranded people through chopper in the district due to inclement weather till Friday, is working to rescue people and transport relief materials, the CMO said.
Kumaraswamy has also requested Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to deploy additional military forces in Kodagu for rescue operations.
So far, the district administration has housed 573 people in 17 relief camps.
Schools and colleges have remained closed in the affected areas of Kodagu, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Chikkamagaluru and Hassan districts due to the rains.
The South Western Railway (SWR) has cancelled its train services from Bengaluru towards Kannur and Ernakulam in flood-hit Kerala due to landslips and flooding.
State-run Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has also suspended several of its inter-state and intra-state bus services towards Kerala, owing to the flooded roads.
The Bengaluru division of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts that heavy rain will continue over the next two days in the coastal and south interior districts of the state, including Kodagu. (IANS)