Rainfall eases in Kerala, relief operations underway

Pauline Gross
August 20, 2018

While more than 300,000 people have taken shelter in relief camps, particular fears have been raised for Chengannur, about 120km north of the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, which has been cut off for four days.

Naturally, with fishermen, NCC, Navy and Air Force continuing to rescue the marooned, Sunday saw the maximum evacuation of people from Chengannur, Pandalam, Thiruvalla, several areas in Pathanamthitta district and in Aluva, Angamaly and Paravur in Ernakulam.

Desperate messages have been circulating on social networking sites, messaging apps and television news channels as people shared the last-known location of family members stranded in the flood-affected areas.

In Vatican City on Sunday, Pope Francis held a moment of silence during his noontime blessing to pray for Kerala flood victims.

"We are receiving multiple repetitive rescue requests", the office of the state's top official, Pinarayi Vijayan, said in a tweet, asking those in need to provide their exact location and nearby landmarks so rescuers can find them.

NDRF Director General Sanjay Kumar said that the operation is in full swing.

But with so many people packed into close quarters, surrounded by stagnant water, disease is a pressing concern, said Paul Chacko, an epidemiologist who lives and works in Kochi.

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Kerala, which usually receives high rainfall, has seen over 250 percent more rain than normal between August 8 and August 15, causing the state authorities to release water from 35 dangerously full dams, sending a surge into its main river.

State-run relief camps have been set up in schools, colleges and other public buildings across the state. The southern state is facing its worst flood in 100 years with 80 dams opened and all rivers in spate. Alliance Air had operated a non-commercial "proving flight" on an ATR (turboprop) aircraft to Kochi's naval base on Sunday with a team of officials from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and other flight safety officials to examine the feasibility of having operations from the base. The government today said all logistic arrangements have been put in place.

Helicopters have also been dropping emergency food and water supplies, while special trains carrying drinking water have been sent to Kerala. The relief material also included items received from some NGOs situated in Mumbai. It is expected to reach the Kochi port by tomorrow.

The Qatar Charity, through its representative in India, has launched emergency relief for those affected by the huge floods with a total value of half a million riyals during the first stage, the Gulf Times reported.

Survivors at evacuation centres have described spending days without food or water.

A Reuters witness in Aluva town, almost 250 km (155 miles) from state capital Thiruvananthapuram, said army helicopters airlifted up to 14 marooned residents, including children and elderly people from an apartment. So far, more than 150,000 people have moved into these tents. The Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry will allocate additional 12,000 kilolitres of kerosene.

The CM also announced the immediate dispatch of medical and veterinary teams to the affected state.

Other reports by GizPress

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