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Kerala floods; key developments: State faces mammoth rehabilitation task; lack of workers as migrants move back

Kerala floods; key developments: Over a dozen FMCG firms, including ITC, Coca Cola, Pepsi and Hindustan Unilever, have pledged to supply water bottle, food and necessary items to flood-hit areas of Kerala

FP Staff August 21, 2018 15:38:54 IST
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Kerala floods; key developments: State faces mammoth rehabilitation task; lack of workers as migrants move back

Kerala floods key developments: Over a dozen FMCG firms, including ITC, Coca Cola, Pepsi and Hindustan Unilever, have pledged to supply water bottle, food and necessary items to flood-hit areas of Kerala in the next two days, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said on Tuesday.

Central Railways employees have decided to a contribute part of their salary for the Kerala flood relief aid, according to details released by the Railway ministry on Tuesday. Both the officers and staff of the central railway zone with headquarters in Mumbai will contribute to the Kerala Chief Minister's Relief Fund according to their pay grade, it said.

The state government and the Army have made it clear that rescue operations will continue till the last person stranded is brought to safety, PTI reported. The government will now prepare a comprehensive health action programme to prevent the outbreak of any water borne diseases among those rescued.

Meanwhile, more relief material from different parts of India has started arriving at the Cochin port through coastal shipping. Four containers of relief material sent by the shipping fraternity from Tuticorin under the initiative of the ministry was delivered for distribution on Monday, officials told PTI. The first truck carrying relief materials, mobilised by all major ports under the Union Shipping Ministry, was dispatched through the VOC Port Trust in Tuticorin and will be arriving at the port on Tuesday, a port trust official said. The Cochin Port Trust has earmarked two warehouses for free storage of relief materials, arriving from across the country, for people affected by the unprecedented floods, he said, as reported by PTI.

The Indian Railways has decided to transport for free the aid and relief material to Kerala and the local railway station has made arrangements to introduce the same facility.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that attempts by some private financial institutions to collect repayment of loans from the people displaced in the flood from relief camps had come to the notice of the government. He urged such institutions to refrain from such moves and provide time to the affected people to repay the loans.

The UAE government has promised to offer $100 million (roughly Rs 700 crore to rebuild Kerala). Earlier, UAE-based Indian origin businessmen had also announced Rs 12.5 crore donation for flood relief operations in Kerala.

The Kerala government has called a special session of the Assembly on 30 August to discuss the calamity that hit the state. Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan stressed the need for skilled workforce to help rebuild the state, which suffered heavy infrastructural losses due to massive floods

Rain may not come in the way of rehabilitating more than a million people stranded in over 3,594 relief across Kerala if the IMD weather prediction for this week is correct. According to the weather report, heavy rain is not likely in any district in the state. The prediction till 25 August is light to moderate rainfall in all 14 districts. Kerala so far has received 2346.6 mm rainfall from 1 June to 9 August against a normal level of 1649.5 mm (above normal by 42 percent). Highest excess rainfall was recorded over the Idukki district (92 percent above normal) followed by Palakkad (72 percent above normal).

People returning from relief camps to heir homes are faced with an uphill task of cleaning their surroundings even as the state government sent out an SOS for more supplies of disinfectants and bleaching powder. The immediate priority is to ensure that the flood victims don't fall prey to water-borne infections as the insides of many flood-hit homes have about 60 cm of mud and slush. Union minister KJ Alphons has asked the central govt to send an army of electricians, plumbers and carpenters to Kerala for rehabilitation work now that the water has started receding from the flooded state.

Meanwhile, the train services in Kayankulam-Kottayam- Ernakulam and Palakkad-Shoranur-Kozhikkode sections have been resumed. Heavy damages caused by the floods in Aluva- Thrissur, Thrissur-Shoranur, Kayamkulam-Kottayam- Ernakulam Shoranur-Tirur, Shoranur- Palakkad routes have been fixed. The traffic in Aluva- Thrissur, Thrissur-Shoranur sections was also restored.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has convened an-all party meeting at 4 pm on Tuesday to discuss the rehabilitation of people languishing in the relief camps. Sources in the chief minister's office said that the cabinet will focus mainly on preparing a memorandum to be submitted to the Central government for assistance.

Kerala floods key developments State faces mammoth rehabilitation task lack of workers as migrants move back

ITBP personnel carry out rescue work in Kerala. image courtesy: Twitter/@ITBP_official

The finance ministry has decided to exempt goods imported or supplied for flood relief operations in Kerala from basic customs duty/Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) till 31 December 2018, sources said. Meanwhile, state-owned general insurance companies have announced that they are fully geared up to settle claims in flood-ravaged Kerala, PTI reported.

The Centre on Monday declared the devastating floods in Kerala a "calamity of severe nature" as the state braced for the gigantic task of reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure and rehabilitation lakhs of people rendered homeless. The death toll in the current spell of monsoon fury that began on 8 August has risen to 223, officials said.

"Keeping in view the intensity and magnitude of the floods and landslides in Kerala, this is a calamity of a severe nature for all practical purposes," a home ministry official said in New Delhi. This categorisation will enable the state get greater monetary and other assistance from the Centre. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said 223 people have lost their lives since 8 August.

"Over 10.78 lakh displaced people, including 2.12 lakh women and one lakh children below 12 years of age, have been sheltered in 3,200 relief camps. On Monday, 602 persons were rescued from various places as the rains receded," he told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram. Vijayan said there has been demands from various quarters to declare the floods as a national calamity.

"Our demand is also the same. But the Centre is pointing out certain technical difficulties to make such an announcement. What we need now is to evaluate the total loss and get an equivalent assistance from the centre. As per preliminary estimates, the state has so far suffered a loss of nearly Rs 20,000 crore. The Union government has so far rendered all help to the state. Kerala received Rs 210 crore towards the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund and a promise of Rs 160 crore," he said.

The government will on 29 August honour fishermen who participated in the rescue operations, he said. An all party meeting will be held on Monday to take stock of the flood situation. With flood water level receding in many places, people have started returning to their homes and begun cleaning operations. The state government has also decided to distribute cleaning kits to them, Vijayan said. K Santosh, director of India Meteorological Department's Thiruvananthapuram centre said all alerts have been withdrawn and the state experienced only light to moderate rainfall on Monday. Similar precipitation has been forecast for the next five days.

The Army, Navy, and NDRF teams continued their rescue efforts. Lt. Gen. DR Soni, the chief of the Army's Southern Command, told a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram that rescue operations were still continuing and drones being used to help reach to people trapped in areas not easily accessible. He said 1,500 army personnel were engaged in rescue operations and people stranded on rooftops and inaccessible areas were being winched with the help of defence helicopters. Efforts were now under way to clear the houses of the debris to make them habitable, officials said, underscoring the need for making available disinfectants like bleaching powder in adequate quantities to prevent outbreak of water-borne diseases.

Vijayan earlier said in a Facebook post that Kerala is striving together as one to overcome the "catastrophic" floods with "monumental strength". Referring to some messages being circulated on social media denigrating the relief efforts by the government, he said that anyone trying to "pull us down will face serious consequences".

Aviation regulator DGCA is, meanwhile, monitoring airfares for flights connecting flood-hit Kerala as this is a unique situation of 'humanitarian crisis', Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said in the national capital. Amid concerns raised by many, including on social media platforms about steep fluctuations in air ticket prices to and from Kerala, where the main airport at Kochi has been shut till 26 August, Prabhu said the ministry as such cannot interfere with the fares but it is "doing it" in this time of crisis.

Kerala Water Authority and Kerala State Electricity Board were trying to restore water and power supply in vast areas that are without power and tap water for the last several days. Commercial flight operations from the naval airport at Kochi commenced on Monday with the first Air India flight from Bengaluru arriving this morning. Small aircraft are being operated from the naval airport. Relief material, including provisions, water and fuel have started arriving at the Kochi port from different parts of the country, official sources said. A team of around 100 doctors and paramedical staff from Maharashtra left for Kerala on Monday to help the flood-affected people.

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