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Kerala floods: Rains subdue, Kochi airport reopened, massive relief work begins

There has been a spate of social media campaigns in the state urging people against sending donations to CMDRF (Chief Minister's Disaster Relief Fund), highlighting the government’s alleged failure last year in distributing donations. (ANI Photo)Premium
There has been a spate of social media campaigns in the state urging people against sending donations to CMDRF (Chief Minister's Disaster Relief Fund), highlighting the government’s alleged failure last year in distributing donations. (ANI Photo)

  • The government expects to end rescue operations on Sunday and focus on sending food and essential materials to relief camps on a war-footing
  • A shortage of essential materials, especially dresses, buckets, food items and preventive medicines against rat fever, has hit relief work at camps

Rainfall activity in Kerala has eased following three days of torrential downpour that has left a trail of destruction, killing 60 people so far and displacing 227333 people into 1551 relief camps across the state.

The government expects to end rescue operations on Sunday and focus on sending food and essential materials to relief camps on a war-footing, said chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Kochi airport resumed operations Sunday noon.

Meanwhile, reports suggest that a shortage of essential materials has hit relief work at camps. "We need a lot of things. Primarily, dresses, buckets, food items, preventive medicines against rat fever and so on. Post traumatic stress disorder is common in the camps, so there is need of mental and physical care experts," Shimna Asees, a doctor told regional news channel Manorama News from a relief camp in Malappuram district.

There has been a spate of social media campaigns in the state urging people against sending donations to CMDRF (Chief Minister's Disaster Relief Fund), highlighting the government’s alleged failure last year in distributing donations. A Facebook video of Trivandrum collector K Gopalakrishnan, saying “everybody is concentrated on the rescue. So there is no immediate demand (of relief materials)" also created a controversy. Vijayan defended the collector, citing the video was posted on Friday when the focus was on rescue.

Northern districts like Malappuram and its neighbour Wayanad, along with central Kerala's hill-station Idukki have been the worst hit this year, witnessing some 82 landslides in three days.

On Sunday, flood waters in Nilambur in Malappuram receded.

However, three districts (Kannur, Kasargode, Wayanad) are still on red alert, indicating the possibility of “extremely heavy" rains. Four other districts are placed under 'orange' alert, signifying “heavy" rains. These districts are also expected to witness heavy rains for three days starting 15 August.

Rescue operations have been held up at the sites of the two biggest landslide - in Malappuram district's Kavalappara, where a hill was washed away trapping some 60 houses, and the other in Wayanad district's Meppadi where a 100-acre tea estate was swept away.

On Sunday, a team from the Madras Regiment of the army reached Kavalappara, where three teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), one team of central engineering wing and coast guard team were already on the ground. So far, according to local reports, 11 dead bodies have been recovered from the site. Indian Air Force's one team and two helicopters were also at the spot. The helicopters are also being used to airlift food supplies to isolated locations in Malappuram.

"In Malappuram, rains have subdued. But in some areas, rescue efforts are impeded by 10-12 feet high mud. It is hard to recover bodies in that condition," said Vijayan. In Meppadi, eight people are still missing, he added.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Member of Parliament (MP) from Wayanad, is expected to visit the two districts on Sunday.

With rains easing, water levels have reportedly come down in major rivers such as Bharatapuzha, Pamba and Periyar.

Water level in dams also do not pose a problem, Vijayan said.

Larger dams are only about half full currently, in sharp contrast to the last year's precarious situation where sluice gates of nearly full dams had to be opened to discharge water in the midst of heavy rains which led to floods.

"Idukki dam is only 36.61% full, Pampa 63.61%, Kakki 38.13%, in contrast to eight dams that were nearly full last year," Vijayan said. However, the state has opened the gates of nearly-full Banasura Sagar dam in Wayanad and is expecting more water into Chaliyar river in central Kerala with the opening of Sholayar dam in Tamil Nadu on Sunday.

"Last year's floods were the biggest one after 1924. This year, the rains came when we were recovering from the previous one. Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram and Idukki has suffered the most damage, most casualties owing to landslides. Like last year, we need everybody's support to come out of this," Vijayan said.

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