New Delhi/Bengaluru: The Centre is expected to announce a major relief package for flood-affected Kerala after Prime Minister Narendra Modi consults the state administration and makes an aerial assessment on Saturday of the floods that have claimed 164 lives, a government official said on Friday.

More than one million people, slightly less than 5% of Kerala’s 33 million population, are feared displaced, according to two people familiar with the matter, raising concerns that the enormity of the tragedy may be more than what is known yet. The floods in August alone have claimed 164 lives but the toll since the arrival of monsoon rains in May stands at 324.

According to central government norms for calculating disaster relief, the state’s preliminary assessment was over 8,000 crore. However, senior state government officials say the figure may be more than 50,000 crore.

An announcement of ‘substantial relief’ may be made either after the prime minister returns to Delhi or within 24 hours of a central delegation visiting the state subsequently, a person informed about the development said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), led by cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha, met for the second time in two days on Friday in the capital and directed mobilisation of additional resources by all agencies engaged in rescue and relief operations in the state.

The worst floods to grip the ecologically fragile state has brought life to a standstill with different parts of Kerala remaining marooned and supply of essential items, including oxygen supplies in hospitals, cut off. More than 10,000 kilometers of national and state highways and a substantially larger part of panchayat roads are damaged while train services remained disrupted and the international airport at Kochi shut down till 26 August.

The official estimate of the number of people displaced, 315,000, is much lower than independent estimates. These people are in relief camps, said chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

“There may be 500,000 people displaced in Ernakulam alone. About 15,000 people are still stranded. They have been living on the terrace of their houses for the last 38-40 hours," a person who runs a Kochi-based NGO and is working with the government on rescue and relief operations said.

Heavy rains triggered flooding, landslides and home and bridge collapses, severely disrupting air and train services in a state that is heavily dependent on tourism, IT-related services and plantation for income, in addition to remittances from abroad.

The Directorate of Civil Aviation said on Friday that it has advised airlines to operate extra flights to the functional airports at Thiruvananthapuram and Calicut. It also advised airlines not to overprice tickets.

It said that the fares for flights between airports in Kerala and those in neighbouring states needed to be kept at “optimal level proportionate to sector distance so that the travelling public is not inconvenienced." Accordingly, on longer routes, companies are advised to cap airfare at 10,000 and on shorter routes at 8,000 to and from Kerala.

Saji Cherian, a senior Left MLA from one of the most affected areas, Alappuzha district’s Chengannur, said government relief measures are not enough. He told Asianet News channel that more than 50,000 people are still stranded in his constituency alone.

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