As flood situation in Kerala progressively worsened, institutions and people from all over stepped forward with moral and material support to the people of the ravaged state.
The UN expressed grief at the tragedy. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Friday, August 17, that the UN “is saddened by the loss of life, destruction and displacement caused by the floods in India,” which is the worst flooding in about 100 years.
Asked if India had asked for UN assistance, he said there has been no request for help and added, “as you know India has quite a well-operating machinery to deal with natural disasters.”
“But of course our country team — I have been in touch with our Resident Coordinator (Yuri Afanasiev ) they are following closely, they are in touch with partners on the ground,” he said.
United Arab Emirates plans to form a committee to help people in flood-hit areas of Kerala. Sheikh Khalifa, the president of UAE, has instructed the formation of a national emergency committee to provide assistance to the people affected. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tweeted, saying: “The people of Kerala have always been and are still part of our success story in the UAE. We have a special responsibility to help and support those affected.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who flew down to Kerala on Friday, announced an additional grant of Rs 500 crore to Kerala on Saturday, after holding a high-level meeting with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and conducting an aerial survey of the flood-ravaged state.
He also announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh per person to the next kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured from the PM’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
Vijayan, meanwhile, informed the PM that the state had suffered a loss of Rs 19,512 crore, on initial assessment.
PM Modi, after reviewing the situation in the state, issued a slew of directions:
– Insurance companies to hold special camps for assessment and timely release of compensation
– Early clearance of claims under Fasal Bima Yojna to agriculturists
– National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to repair main national highways on priority
– Central Public Sector, such as NTPC and PGCIL, are asked to be available to assist the state government in restoring power lines
– Villagers, whose kutcha houses have been destroyed, will be provided Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin houses on priority
– Under MGNREGA, 5.5 crore person days have been sanctioned in the labour budget 2018-19
– Under Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture, farmers will be provided assistance for replantation of damaged horticulture crops
Modi tweeted: “I salute the people of Kerala for their fighting spirit. I compliment the authorities for their efforts in this adverse situation. I would also like to appreciate the wide support and solidarity from people across India towards Kerala during this unprecedented situation.”
Vijayan said in a tweet: “In a meeting convened to assess the flood situation in the State, CM Pinarayi Vijayan informed Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the State has suffered a loss of Rs 19,512 crore as per initial assessment. The Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an assistance of Rs 500 crore. CM had requested an immediate assistance of Rs 2000 crore. We express our thanks to Centre for the assistance.”
A host of agencies are involved in the daunting relief effort. Apart from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, there are 57 NDRF teams, comprising 1,300 personnel and 435 boats, conducting search and rescue operations in Kerala. There are five companies of BSF, CISF and RAF teams. A total of 38 helicopters have been deployed, and 20 aircraft are also being used for ferrying resources.
There are 10 columns of the Army and 10 teams of Engineering Task Force (ETFs), 82 teams of the Navy and 42 teams of the Coast Guard.
Over 82,000 people were rescued on Friday as multiple rescue agencies shifted people from flooded districts to relief camps. As several parts of Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts were submerged, people were camped on terraces or higher floors waiting for rescuers.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Friday said the heavy rains, floods and landslides have killed at least 173 people since August 8. There were 31 deaths reported on Friday.
Since May, 285 people have died in rain-related incidents, said a report in The Indian Express (IE). The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has rescued over 4,000 people while the Navy has rescued 400.
The Chief Minister Friday said rescue operations are progressing well despite the inclement weather. At least 82,442 people were rescued on Friday. There are 3,14,391 people from 70,085 families who have been shifted to relief camps. There are nearly 2,100 camps across the state. This is the worst flood in 100 years, Vijayan reiterated, adding that the road to recovery is going to be a long one.
Among the severely affected districts are Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Thrissur, where the situation remains “grave”.
Idukki remained cut off for third day. Idukki MP Joice George, talking to The Indian Express, said bodies of victims trapped in landslides couldn’t be retrieved as the entire district administration is paralysed and people are affected or stranded in different places in the hill area. He added that relief camps in the district are desperate for food – especially rice, vegetables, clothes including undergarments and sanitary napkins for women.
Meanwhile, in an emotional appeal Friday, Chengannur MLA Saji Cherian broke down in a TV studio saying thousands in his constituency would die if the Centre didn’t provide additional aid and send more helicopters. The Navy subsequently rushed 10 boats to the area to conduct relief operations. Chengannur and Chalakudy areas are the worst affected at the moment because of the heavy currents here, CM Vijayan said.
Hundreds of fishermen from coastal villages have joined the rescue efforts at Pathanamthitta, where helicopters are airlifting people to safer places.
Chief Ministers across the country are chipping in to help Kerala, said media reports. Jharkhand CM Raghunar Das announced Rs 5 crore aid for Kerala. Maharashtra CM Fadnavis announces 20 crore assistance for flood-hit Kerala. Mahasrashtra has also rushed drinking water to Kerala by train.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis also said MCHI-CREDAI is contributing with food packets of 1.5 crore and Rajasthani Welfare Association & JITO International contributing Rs 51 lakh each. Around 11 ton of dry food is being arranged so far out of which 6 ton would be sent by evening, he said.
From Delhi, all AAP MPs, MLAs and ministers will donate one-month salary for the relief work in flood-ravaged Kerala. Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor Arvind Kejriwal announced Rs 10 crore relief for the state from the government on Friday.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced aid of Rs 10 crore from Kerala. Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik has announced Rs 5 crore for the state.
Meanwhile, the weather continues to pour misery as heavy rains batter the state. While the intensity of rainfall activity reduced over Kerala on Friday, the Indian Metereological Department (IMD) has predicted heavy rainfall for the next two days. Rain has already intensified in Kochi and central districts of Kerala. It said, a circulation has formed in north Bay of Bengal which will have an impact on Kerala and heavy rain will continue today and tomorrow (Sunday) in the flood-hit state.
Between June 1 and August 17, the state received cumulative rainfall of 2,306.88 mm, compared to the normal 1,634.5 mm — an excess of 41.12 per cent.
According to the weather department, since the beginning of June more than 321 centimetres (126 inches) of rain has fallen on the hilly central Kerala district of Idukki, which is now virtually cut off from the rest of the state, reported NDTV. Just this season, rain in Kerala has seen a nearly-160 per cent rise above normal.
Landslide on highway in Madikeri, Coorg
Hundreds of thousands have been shifted to relief camps as nearly 100 dams, reservoirs and rivers have overflowed. Roads have caved in, sections of highways collapsed, and homes swept away amid warnings of worse weather to come. With thousands still trapped, power and communication lines down, and fresh alerts of further torrential rain, authorities warned of more trouble ahead and further deaths to come.
With no end in sight to the deluge, people all over the state of 33 million have made panic-stricken appeals on social media for help, saying they cannot make contact with rescue services. Flood waters from the Periyar river and its tributaries have submerged many towns in Ernakulam and Thrissur, said the NDTV report. An alarming situation has developed in Alapuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Pathanamthitta districts, where roads have become completely submerged.
The government says 10,000 kilometres of Kerala’s roads have been destroyed or damaged, along with thousands of homes. The damage is unparalleled. Industry has suffered too. On top of tourist cancellations, Kerala’s valuable rubber industry has been hit severely by the floods. Electricity supplies to more than half the state have been cut.
Telecom operators have announced free call and data services and other relief measures for a week for users in Kerala.
The airport in Kochi has been shut at least till August 26 and flight operations have been shifted to state capital Thiruvananthapuram. Domestic airlines have been asked to keep a check on air fares for flights operating to and from Kerala.
Rail services across the state and the metro service in Kochi have been hit too. Transportation has collapsed, and both residents and tourists are stranded.
Thousands of people are still perched on trees and rooftops, waiting to be rescued. Water has even started entering relief camps.