New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday launched a massive relief and rescue operations in flood-hit Kerala, involving the three defence forces and other agencies, even as Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha chaired a high-level meeting following a directive from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Besides the Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force, the Coast Guard and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)have been asked to mobilise additional manpower, boats and helicopters to scale up the rescue and relief operations, a home ministry spokesperson said.

Food packets and drinking water are being rushed to Kerala for distribution among the people in 14 worst affected districts, while additional NDRF teams are also being sent to the state to assist the local administration in operations.

The cabinet secretary chaired a high-level meeting to review the flood situation and rescue and relief operations in the southern state following a directive of the Prime Minister, the spokesperson said. The meeting was attended by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, top officials of the Ministries of Defence, the National Disaster Management Authority and the NDRF. It was decided that the Chairman of the Central Water Commission will monitor the situation at the Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala in view of the rising water level and continued heavy inflow.

The Prime Minister has spoken to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday morning and discussed with him the flood situation. Modi had spoken to Vijayan yesterday too. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh too had a telephonic conversation with the Kerala chief minister on the prevailing situation. Singh had spoken to Vijayan twice yesterday.

During his visit to Kerala on Sunday, the home minister had announced a Rs100 crore immediate assistance package. Five people were killed in a landslide in Palakkad district of Kerala on Thursday even as torrential rains led to the collapse of the public transport system in many parts of the state with the southern Railways and Kochi Metro suspending operations. Palakkad district police sources said the five persons were killed in Nenmara while two were rescued, taking the death toll to 72 in the current phase of Monsoon fury. Reports of a landslide have also come in from Thrissur district and some people are said to be missing.

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