Kerala relief work in full swing; Karnataka, TN under flood threat

Thiruvananthapuram/Bengaluru/Chennai: The deadly monsoon rains that savaged Kerala claimed 13 more lives yesterday as parts of neighbouring Karnataka and Tamilnadu too reeled under floods.

More than 3,500 people have been rescued till yesterday in Kodagu district of Karanataka, where six people lost their lives in floods and landslides in the past few days, while major rivers, including Cauvery, were in spate in Tamilnadu, inundating low-lying areas along the banks.

In Kerala, which bore the brunt of the south west monsoon fury, the number of those displaced in the torrential rains was yesterday put at 7.24 lakh by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who also said most of the affected had been rescued and the government’s focus would now be their rehabilitation.

Many people have died in rain-related incidents, mainly landslides and floods, since the monsoon set in on 29 May in the state, which received a body blow with its tourism industry wrecked, standing crops in thousands of hectares destroyed and huge damage to infrastructure.

High-range Idukki district, Malappuram and Thrissur and Ernakulam are among the worst hit in the state which saw its mighty Mullaperiyar Dam and Idukki reservoirs being opened, so as scores of other water bodies, causing floods downstream.

In a big relief, there was respite from the rains in most parts of Kerala yesterday after nearly two weeks of virtually non-stop onslaught and the red alert has been lifted in several districts.

The rainfall intensity over Kerala has decreased over the past two days, the meteorology department said, adding there is no alert of heavy precipitation for the next four days.

President Ram Nath Kovind spoke to Kerala Governor P Sathasivam and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and enquired about the situation and acknowledged the grit and resilience of the people in coming together in this trying hour.

“Assured the people of the state that entire nation was with them,” the Rashtrapati Bhavan tweeted. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday undertook an aerial survey of monsoon ravaged areas and announced an immediate assistance of Rs 500 crore.

Thirteen people lost their lives yesterday and 7,24,649 lakh people were put up in 5,645 relief camps, Vijayan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram after a review meeting.

Around 22,000 people were rescued yesterday, he said, lauding the efforts put in by personnel of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, NDRF, fishermen and local people in the operations.

The Chief Minister said in each panchayat, six health officers would be deployed to ensure there was no outbreak of any communicable diseases as the flood water recedes.

Commercial flight operations from Kochi, hit following the closure of its international airport due to flooding, would resume today from the Naval airport to Coimbatore and Bengaluru, bringing some relief to travellers.

Rail traffic continued to be disrupted in several parts of the state with railways cancelling at least 18 trains. Meanwhile, as flood waters receded in some areas, people in relief camps have slowly started returning to their homes.

Efforts are on to restore power and water supply in areas where the power systems have been completely destroyed.

In Karnataka’s Kodagu, bordering Kerala, as many as 317 people, including a two-month-old infant, were rescued and shifted to relief centres since yesterday, and the operations continued in and around Makkandooru and other affected areas, officials said.

President Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke over phone to Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, camping in the rain-battered district, and enquired about the situation.

“Extended all possible support in the rescue and relief operations. I pray for the safety and well-being of those in the flood affected areas,” the PM tweeted.

Nearly 1,000 personnel from the Armed Forces, National and State Disaster Response Forces, Civil Defence Teams, Fire and Emergency are engaged in the rescue work since 15 August.

Describing the situation as a difficult time, Kumaraswamy said the government’s focus was to rescue the people. There were also reports about flooding and landslides in a few districts of coastal and Malnad region, especially in Chikkamagaluru district, affecting road connectivity.

In Tamilnadu, a flood alert was sounded for 13 districts, including the Cauvery delta regions, besides Madurai and Theni as the Periyar and Vaigai dams too received copious inflows.

Heavy discharges were being made from dams, including Mettur, in view of copious inflows from Karnataka, leading to inundation of several villages and submergence of standing crops along the banks of Cauvery and its tributary Bhavani.

Water level in Vaigai dam in Madurai district touched 69 feet (maximum 71 ft), prompting officials to open its shutters, officials said.

Nearly 14,000 people have been moved to relief camps in different districts so far in the state, officials said. Chief Minister K Palaniswami, who inpsected flood-hit areas in western districts, assured compensation for crop loss due to the floods and permanent houses to the affected.

His ministerial colleagues O S Manian, R B Udayakumar and S P Velumani visited worst flood-hit villages in Nagapattinam, Kanyakumari district and Valparai in Coimbatore district.