Kerala floods: Kochi naval airbase to open for commercial passenger flights from Monday

New Delhi: In the wake of massive floods in Kerala, the Centre on Sunday decided to open Kochi Naval airstrip for use by commercial aircraft by Monday and deploy five more choppers, taking the total number of aircraft used for rescue and relief to 96.

The services at the Kochi international airport, which is among the busiest in the country, have been suspended till 26 August after flood water inundated the runway.

The decisions were taken at a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country's apex body to handle emergency situation, headed by Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha.

Kochi Naval base. Twitter/@airindiain

Kochi Naval base. Twitter/@airindiain

In the meeting, it was decided to make the Naval airstrip at Kochi functional for commercial flights by 20 August, an official statement said.

All mobile operators have offered free data and SMS facility from Saturday, it said.

In unprecedented relief efforts being mobilised under the instructions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 67 helicopters, 24 aircraft, 548 motorboats and thousands of rescue personnel from Indian Navy, Army, Air Force, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Coast Guard, other Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have been pressed into service to rescue and evacuate people from submerged areas to relief camps and for distribution of relief materials.

The Cabinet Secretary directed five more helicopters to be mobilised by the IAF, Navy and ONGC which will be pressed into service by tomorrow, the statement said.
Additional motorboats have also been put on standby for deployment.

More than 6,900 life jackets, 3,000 life buoys, 167 inflatable tower lights, 2,100 raincoats, 1,300 gumboots and 153 chain saws have been provided as per the request of the state government.

So far, various central ministries have made available food, water and medicines which include 3,00,000 food packets, 6,00,000 MT of milk, 14,00,000 litres of drinking water, 150 potable water purification kits with capacity of 1,00,000 litre each.

The Railways informed that trains have been running to Thiruvananthapuram via Erode and Madurai.

It offered to run a special food and medicine train from Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam as per the requirements of the state government to distribute food and medicines to all the stations on the way.

The meeting also reviewed various measures to restore power lines, petrol pumps, LPG, health facilities, and to provide necessary medicines, food and fodder etc with full support from the central ministries.

The NCMC met for the third consecutive day on Sunday to review the ongoing massive rescue and relief operation in the flood affected areas in Kerala.

The meeting discussed in a video conference with the Chief Secretary of Kerala the current flood situation and deployment of rescue teams, motorboats, helicopters, life jacket; provision of food, water and medicines and restoration of power, telecom and transport links wherever they were disrupted, the statement said.

With a view to improve telephone connectivity, the Department of Telecom has enabled intra-circle roaming which will enable subscribers of one service provider to access mobile towers of other service providers.

All the operators have offered free data and SMS facility from Saturday. Mobile towers called 'Cellular on Wheels' are also being deployed to ensure that no block remains unconnected.

The Ministry of Health has readied emergency medicines and medical teams for deployment as soon as flood waters recede. The Cabinet Secretary directed that there should be proper coordination and distribution of relief materials which are being offered by various state governments and other agencies.

The Chief Secretary of Kerala, while appreciating timely central assistance, informed that there was some respite from the rainfall and water level in the dam reservoirs had stabilized.

As per the weather department forecast, rainfall is expected to recede further barring in one or two districts.

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Updated Date: Aug 19, 2018 12:46:25 IST

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