Published: Sun, August 19, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Centre’s Rs 500-crore aid to Kerala kicks up political storm

Centre’s Rs 500-crore aid to Kerala kicks up political storm

A deluge in India's flood-stricken southwestern state of Kerala finally let up on Sunday, giving some respite for thousands of marooned families, while authorities feared an outbreak of disease among over 200,000 people crammed into relief camps.

People wait for aid on the roof of their house at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018.

Entire villages in Kerala have been swept away in the state's worst floods in a century, and emergency responders fear the death toll will rise as they reach areas nearly entirely underwater.

The state's top elected official, Pinarayi Vijayan, told reporters that at least 324 people had died and more than 220,000 had taken refuge in the camps.

The government says 6,000 miles of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged, along with thousands of homes.

The downpours that started August 8 have triggered floods and landslides and caused homes and bridges to collapse across Kerala, a picturesque state known for its quiet tropical backwaters and attractive beaches.

State Disaster Management Commission Commissioner MV Seshagiri Bababu, DG Fire Service Satyanarayana, Disaster Management Department officer Supiri Kumari, State Emergency Operations Center Incharge Kisan were also asked to go to Kerala to help in rescue and relief.

Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, said in a tweet he was on his way to Kerala on Friday night "to take stock of the flood situation in the state".

There is a severe drinking water shortage in the relief camps, a lack of medicines, and getting food to the camps is a big problem given transportation has been severely affected. The directions have also been issued for early clearance of claims under Fasal Bima Yojna to agriculturists, said officials. The remaining animals were left stranded and in the most urgent need of help. Mobile phones are not reachable. Rescue workers have yet to reach many flooded areas, some too narrow for boats to navigate.

Saji Cherian, member of the legislative assembly from Chengannur, said at least 50,000 people like Kunjamma were struggling for their lives in his constituency.

Mr Vijayan said initial storm damage estimates were almost $2.8bn.

The Centre on Saturday said the Cochin Naval Base would be thrown open for commercial flight operations from the morning of August 20-a move that will bring a huge relief to people awaiting resumption of air service from Kochi. As many as 197 people have died in the last 10 days, taking the overall toll in Kerala's murderous monsoon season to 357.

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