Kerala on High Alert as Death Toll Reaches 37, Over 50,000 Rendered Homeless

Kerala on High Alert as Death Toll Reaches 37, Over 50,000 Rendered Homeless

Kochi/Idukki: More than half of the 14 districts in Kerala have been put on high alert, officials said on Saturday, as the death toll from one of the worst floods in the southern state reached 37.

Torrential rains and landslides have ravaged farmlands and prompted massive evacuation efforts in Kerala

Crops on 1,031 hectares (2547.66 acres) have been damaged and over 50,000 people have been forced to take shelter in rescue camps, according to the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority's (KSDMA) control room in the state capital.

A senior official there said eight districts had been put on varying levels of high alert

Another government official previously told Reuters that crop worth 3.42 billion rupees ($49.65 million), across 26,824 hectares had been destroyed by rains since their onset on May 29.

Keeping in mind the unprecedented havoc, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has made a personal contribution of Rs 1 lakh to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF). Urging everyone to contribute generously to relief efforts, Vijayan said in a Facebook post that rebuilding the affected areas is going to be an arduous task.

Puducherry chief minister V Narayanasamy on Saturday announced a relief assistance of Rs 1 crore to the Kerala government to tackle the situation arising out of floods.

He also appealed to traders, industrialists and others to make generous contributions to the Puducherry Chief Minister Relief Fund which would be sent to the Kerala government for relief work.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to release sufficient funds to the Kerala government to help respond to the flood crisis and restore critical infrastructure in the state. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Gandhi said the torrential rains, floods and wide-scale landslides have left behind a trail of destruction across Kerala.

Terming it as the “most severe disaster” that has struck the state in the last five decades, he said this natural calamity has resulted in massive economic and human losses. “At this juncture, it is critical to acknowledge the looming humanitarian crisis facing Kerala,” he said, seeking funds for the state.

Makkal Needhi Maiam president Kamal Haasan and Vijay Television will donate Rs 25 lakh each to the relief fund. Haasan also asked his fans, party cadres and people of Tamil Nadu to help Kerala.

The KSDMA’s chief and a top state bureaucrat, PH Kurian, said rains had eased. “There was no rain in the catchment areas of major reservoirs on Saturday,” Kurian said. “However, we will continue our alert and preparedness till August 15.”

Home minister Rajnath Singh will undertake an aerial survey of the state on Sunday to take stock of the relief and rescue operations, Kurian added.

Kerala state authorities took the unprecedented step of opening the gates of 25 water reservoirs to prevent potentially disastrous breaches.

The state, which has 44 rivers, witnessed its worst floods in 1924 following torrential rains.

The weather department forecast heavy rains until August 15, also warning of flooding in low-lying coastal areas. Fishermen have been advised not to venture into the Arabian Sea.

‘Too afraid to return home’

Several people lodged in relief camps due to the floods have said they are scared of returning.

Most of those in the relief camp had to rush out of their houses with only the clothes they were wearing, they said. Muddy homes, wells brimming with dirty water, clogged toilets, snakes and other reptiles crawling inside their houses were giving them sleepless nights, they added.

Nearly 400 flood-affected people, including 85 children from Keerithod in Kanjikuzhy panchayat near Cheruthoni, are in the camp for the past two days as a precautionary measure after water was released from Idukki dam.

Eight villages have been affected due to the release of water from the dam and nearly 1,000 people have been shifted to 20 relief camps, official sources said.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan meets the flood-affected people at a camp in Wayanad on Saturday. (PTI)

“We had to rush out with a few belongings. We do not know what has happened to our homes,” a woman said, adding that people coming from the area told them that water was flowing like “giant sea waves” in front of our homes. "We are scared to return to our homes," she said.

However, life in the camp was quite comfortable. There is a common kitchen and all of us are eating together, she added.

Tincy, a panchayat member said as prior warning about the release of water had been issued, any kind of human casualty was avoided.

Meanwhile, people living at Kariveli Mannapuram in Aluva in Ernakulam district said mud and slush filled their homes due to waterlogging and well water has turned muddy.

Farmers in Puthenvelikara said about one lakh banana plants were destroyed in the region due to heavy rains and sought the state government to provide compensation.

Bringing in some cheer in their hour of distress, actor Mammooty visited a relief camp at Parvoor in Ernakulam district on Friday night and assured all possible help to the people