Kerala Floods: 2.23 lakh homeless, 324 dead, massive rescue operation under way

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Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: August 18, 2018 4:26:54 AM

At least 2.23 lakh people have been rendered homeless in Kerala because of floods and landslides following continuous heavy rains for days.

Rescue workers search for bodies of missing persons after a landslide, triggered by heavy
rains and floods, at Nenmara in Palakkad on Friday (PTI)

At least 2.23 lakh people have been rendered homeless in Kerala because of floods and landslides following continuous heavy rains for days. While swollen Periyar, Pampa, Manimala and Achankovil rivers have caused floods, incidents of landslides have been reported from the hilly areas of Wayanad and Palakkad.

After a respite in the rain fury, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and state government agencies on Friday teamed up in a massive rescue operation in water-logged areas, pressing helicopters, Navy rafts and local fishing boats into service.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to undertake an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas on Saturday, Union minister KJ Alphons said. Within the last 10 days, 164 people died as rains wreaked havoc. If one calculates from May 29, the beginning of the south-west monsoon, the state has seen about 324 rain-related deaths. Even hospitals are submerged in Pathanamtitta, Wayanad and Alapuzha districts. As thousands of children, old people, pregnant women and physically-challenged persons are still marooned in remote areas for two days without food, water and medicines, the number of casualties will only go up.

According to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, 2,23,000 people have been accommodated in 1,568 relief camps. On Thursday, the NDRF and the Navy rescued 4,550 people. “Several thousands are still waiting to be rescued and Union defence minister Nirmala Sitaraman had agreed to send more contingents of  the forces and rescue gear,” Vijayan said.

From June 1 to August 15, Kerala received rains in excess of 30% of the normal. Landslides continued unabated as a big one was reported in Panjarakolli of Wayanad district.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has asked the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) and a sub-panel set up by Kerala to deal with the flood situation to coordinate and explore the possibility of Tamil Nadu reducing the water level at the Mullaperiyar Dam to 139 feet. Kerala has been told to take appropriate steps while releasing the dam water so that people are not affected.

The NCMC, which met for the second time in two days in Delhi on Friday to review the flood situation, decided to mobilise additional resources of all agencies including Army, navy, air force, coast guard and the NDRF to provide required assistance to Kerala.

The Centre has told the Kerala government that the naval airstrip in Kochi could be used as a civilian airport. Floods have disrupted the normal life, train services have been cancelled. Telecom operators like BSNL, Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have offered free calls and extended bill payment due dates for customers in Kerala.

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