Kerala flood: Rescue operations in the final stage; red alert lifted from all districts

By Najiya O,

After almost three weeks, the rains in Kerala have slowed down and as a result, the state has lifted the red alert situation across all districts.  The final stage of rescue operations are going on in Chengannur and Nelliyampathy, with the help of the fishermen and voluntary organisations along with the local people and government machinery.

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Around 7.4 lakh people have been shifted to the nearly 5000 relief camps spread across the state.  The Centre is also opening more than 3000 medical camps.

PM’s immediate relief Rs 500 crore

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Kerala and offered Rs 500 crore as immediate aid.  He made an aerial observation of the flood-hit areas and held a meeting with the Chief Minister and high-level officials to analyse the flood situation.  The Chief Minister had informed the PM that the loss of the state due to the flood would be about Rs 20,000 crores and requested Rs 2000 crore as immediate aid.  The PM also informed that the National Highway Authority of India would reconstruct the broken roads, the NTPC would repair the electricity connection, relatives of the deceased would be given Rs 2 lakh and those injured Rs 50,000.

Rescue and Relief

Hinting at the urgency of the situation, a few deaths have been reported from the flooded areas where people are stranded on rooftops and isolated buildings in various places without food and water for five consecutive days in Chengannur in the district of Pathanamthitta, and in Nelliyampathy in Palakkad district due to landslides.  The MLA of the worst-affected Chengannur was in tears during a phone call with a news channel, saying his people would die in thousands if the central government did not allot more helicopters to airlift them. In several places, airlifting was the only way to rescue people locked up on rooftops without food and water for days. Fishermen labourers who came from the  coastal areas were fully into the rescue operations with their small boats and diving and swimming expertise. People were again evacuated from a few places in Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts out of fear of rising water levels.

The state and central forces are immersed in the rescue operations to help those stranded in different parts of the flood-hit state.  The National Disaster Response Force, the Air Force with helicopters and aircraft, the Indian Army and the army’s Engineering Task Force, the Navy with its boats, the Coast Guard with its boats and life rafts, and the BSF are in the field.  Along with them are the full force of the Kerala Fire and Rescue team, the Kerala Police, Fisheries boats and fishing labourers, and the local people.

Food, water, clothes, medicines and other essentials are transported to the relief camps and flood-hit areas with the help of the army also now, along with the local people.  Several NGOs, groups and clubs are doing a commendable part in the relief work in their own ways. Some are collecting essential commodities needed for the people in the camps and distributing them to the needy.  Doctors are providing medical services in the camps as well as in houses where many families are staying together. People are using social media very effectively to inform others of the services they offer, as well as to inform of those locked up in the flooded parts.  While some volunteer updates on food shortage in a camp, other groups are ready with food in another part and update that too. And there are a few groups to coordinate all the needs and resources, the being the official one at it.  Relief work has not excluded those daily labourers who are stuck in their homes in the areas not affected by the flood and cannot go out to earn a living.

As a short relief, the water level has come down in flooded Aluva in Ernakulam district.  Train service has been reinstated between Kottayam and Ernakulam. Meanwhile, the situation seems to have come under control in the dams.  The water level has come down in the Periyar river. People have begun to go back to their homes from the relief camps in places like Malappuram where water levels are falling down, but what they could see was mud-filled rooms and equipment.  However, those in the hilly areas still remain in the camps out of fear of landslides. Road transport also is getting readied, along with the electricity connection.

Commercial flights to land at Kochi Naval Air Base

The Government has decided to open up the Naval Air Base in Kochi for domestic commercial flights from August 20 onwards.  It would be a great relief for many as the Cochin International Airport has been closed down due to the flooding. In another incident, the Civil Aviation Ministry has reportedly instructed airline companies not to charge high fares from those travelling to the Gulf from other airports like Bengaluru etc, due to the closure of the Cochin Airport. There have been complaints of airlines charging exorbitant rates from the travellers, and the Ministry has instructed to keep the fares the same as it was from the Cochin Airport.

Student protest in Delhi

Students from Kerala studying in the various educational institutions in Delhi along with several other organisations staged a protest on Saturday against the attitude of the Central Government, for not calling the floods a national calamity, and to increase the aid to the state.

Floods get international coverage

Meanwhile, the alarming flood situation has been covered by the international media too.  The BBC, the CNN, the New York Times, The Guardian, the CCTV and the CGTV of China and the media in the Gulf region have covered the grave flood situation in the state. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed his sadness over the loss of lives and the destruction caused by the floods, and the organisation is following the situation very closely, according to reports.