New Delhi: Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited flood-hit Kerala, help started pouring in from various central ministries for the southern state. Amid ongoing rescue and relief operations, cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha on Saturday reviewed the situation in the flood-affected areas in Kerala. This was the third meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) in the last three days.
In an attempt to rescue and evacuate people from submerged areas and for distribution of relief material, the government has pressed into service at least 67 helicopters, 24 aircraft, 548 motorboats and thousands of personnel from the Indian Navy, Indian Army, Indian Air Force, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Coast Guard and other central armed police forces (CAPFs).
According to the request from Kerala government, more than 6,900 life jackets, 3,000 lifebuoys, 167 inflatable tower lights, 2,100 raincoats, 1,300 gumboots and 153 chainsaws have been provided.
The Cabinet Secretary directed five more helicopters to be mobilised by the Air Force, Navy and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which will be pressed into service by Sunday. Additional motorboats have also been put on standby for deployment, according to an official statement.
Central ministries have so far made available food, water and medicines, which include 300,000 food packets, 600,000 million tonnes of milk, 1,400,000 litres of drinking water, and 150 potable water purification kits with capacity of 100,000 litres each.
The railways have been running trains to Thiruvananthapuram via Erode and Madurai. They have offered to run a special food and medicine train from Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam to distribute food and medicines to all the stations on the way.
The railways are running 21 special passenger trains to evacuate the stranded people. Fourteen trains will run in the Palghat division and seven in the Trivandrum division. All catering stalls are being kept open round-the-clock at major railway stations. Catering units are also having adequate stocks with them.
Emergency medical care centres are also being run at various stations, including Shoranur, Nagercoil, Trivandrum, Kollam and Ernakulam. Accommodation has been arranged to transit passengers at the Pattambi and Pallipuram panchayat community halls with the help of the district authorities.
The railways are also liaising with Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) for transporting passengers stranded at various stations, including Palakkad, Kozhikode and Tirur.
The government has also decided to make the Naval airstrip at Kochi functional for commercial flights by 20 August. As communication services have taken a hit due to the floods, 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 Friday. Mobile towers called “Cellular on Wheels" are also being deployed to ensure that no block remains unconnected.
The health ministry has made ready emergency medicines and medical teams for deployment as soon as flood waters recede. “We are in touch with the Kerala government. Whenever the flood water starts receding, we will send a special team to review the situation and provide medical help. Currently everything is being managed by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)," said Manoj Jhalani, additional secretary with the union health ministry.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced ₹ 500 crore financial assistance to Kerala after personally reviewing the flood situation on Friday. The prime minister also directed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to repair damaged national highways in the state on priority, and asked insurance companies to settle claims under crop insurance and social security schemes on time. The prime minister also announced an ex gratia payment of ₹ 2 lakh per person to the next of kin of the deceased and ₹ 50,000 to those seriously injured. The PM also said the Centre would help rebuild homes, provide assistance to farmers, and additional funds under the employment guarantee scheme.
Appreciating the help from the Centre, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted on Saturday that the state had asked for immediate central assistance of ₹ 2,000 crore. On Saturday, the state issued a red alert in 11 districts saying heavy rainfall was expected in all districts except Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kasaragod. During the June to September monsoon season, till 18 August, the state has received 42% excess rainfall, leading to the worst floods in a century that have claimed the lives of 324 people since May.
Jyotika Sood contributed to the story.