Kochi: It can be said that after the great flood of 2018, Kerala is back to its mythical beginnings. Almost to the time when sage Parasurama threw his axe from a mountain top and Kerala emerged from the waters between Gokarna and Kanyakumari.

At one period, during the middle of August, it seemed like the whole of Kerala would drown under the apocalyptic floods. Whole towns were inundated, bridges torn asunder and the tourist town of Kumarakom, famed for its houseboats, went right under the rising waters of the Vembanad lake.

Kerala witnessed more than 200 landslides, over 80,000km of roads were destroyed and key hill stations were completely cut off at the beginning of the tourist season. The Cochin International Airport—built on a floodplain—had to be closed down. Thousands of houses were destroyed, more than 370 people lost their lives, and nearly a million people are now in 5,645 relief camps.

What’s left of Kerala and when will it return to normalcy?

As the flood abates and the water recedes, the state literally needs to be built from scratch. Though the government has put the initial estimate of damages at 20,000 crore, the personal belongings of people, their houses and other valuables cannot be estimated. The government is on a war footing to get power, roads and water supply back before getting to the next level of rebuilding and rehabilitation.

According to Kochi-based psychiatrist C.J. John, who has been visiting relief camps, people who fled their homes with only clothes on their backs seem calm and resigned. He attributes this to it being a pan-Kerala calamity where everyone is affected. But even as society commends this composure, the grit of the people to overcome their personal problems, John cautions that the government should not dilly-dally over rebuilding of their homes.

“Keralites are home-bound people and they treasure their personal space very much. They have been ejected from their homes into the public relief camps and now have to look to the government to rebuild their lives. Even the poorest of homes were well equipped with the basic amenities of TV, fridge, washing machine, air conditioners, and now they have nothing, just the clothes on their back. Without people having to beg the government, the government should give priority to rehabilitation. It should be a socio-economic redressal," says John.

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People at the moment are hopeful of getting back to their homes and their lives quickly. As a Keralite wrote in a Facebook post: “We are not afraid, today/ Oh, deep in my heart/ We shall overcome."

If, at the moment, Kerala is strong, it also needs all the aid it can get—more than anyone can possibly quantify.

Minu Ittyipe is a Kochi-based independent journalist.

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