Karnataka rains: Situation in Kodagu under control

Bengaluru: Rescue and relief operations in rain-ravaged Karnataka’s Kodagu were intensified, as the situation in the district bordering Kerala came “under control” after leaving a huge trail of destruction, which has claimed at least 12 lives and rendered hundreds homeless.

The administration cancelled hotel bookings made by tourists in the scenic hilly district nestled on the hills of the Western Ghats till the end of this month as it tottered under torrential rains that caused floods and landslides.

Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said the situation was “under control” and assured the people battered by floods and landslips of a “new life” with fair rehabilitation.

As the rains subsided since yesterday afternoon, government machinery was now focusing on relief and rehabilitation work; almost all those who were stranded have been rescued, he said.

The Chief Minister also said action has been initiated to distribute an interim relief of Rs 3,800 per family of distressed people sheltered in relief centres.

“Now situation is totally under control, our officers are doing their best. We have taken things very seriously, without rest our people are on the job,” Kumaraswamy told reporters here.

Calling it the “biggest disaster” that Kodagu has seen in recent times, he appealed to the affected people not to worry as the government was with them.

“Protecting your (affected people) interest is the responsibility of the government, we will try to build a new life for you,” he said.

Asked about the number of people still to be rescued, the Chief Minister said almost every one has been rescued.

“…if we still get any information or call for rescue, teams are stationed there. As of now the information with the government is everyone has been rescued,” he said.

With all major roads leading to Kodagu being blocked, a massive rescue operation had been on for the last couple of days to rescue those stranded in the hilly terrains of the district.

As of yesterday, over 4,320 people have been rescued and brought to relief centres.

Several tourists were stuck in resorts and hotels ever since the disaster struck the district last week, with roads, including highways, suffering damage, making access to the region extremely difficult.

Restoration of damaged roads is on a war-footing, official sources said. Personnel of the army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other agencies are involved in the ongoing rescue operations, where 3,500 people had been moved to safer places till Sunday, officials said.

An official notification issued by the district deputy commissioner yesterday said bookings made by tourists in hotels, resorts and home stays had been cancelled till 31 August.

The measure has been taken for the safety of tourists, it added. Kumaraswamy said 41 relief centres in Kodagu and nine relief centres in Dakshina Kannada, another flood-hit district, have been set up, and a total of 6,620 people are sheltered in these relief centres, where all basic amenities like food, toilet and water facilities have been provided.

Giving details about loss to life and property, officials said, 12 people have lost their lives and 845 houses damaged of which 773 houses are partially damaged.

Also, 23 km of road, 58 bridges, 278 government buildings and 3,800 electric poles have been damaged.

A total of 1,725 specially trained experts from Karnataka State Reserve Police; National and State Disaster Response Forces; Army, Navy and Air force; NCC; Home guards and District Administration have been deployed in rescue operations, they said.

Kumaraswamy said three officials at the helm of the rescue and relief work – the District Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent of Police and in-charge secretary of the district – were women officers and commended the district administration for their efforts.

He said the President and the Prime Minister have spoken to him over phone and enquired about the situation.

“I have told the Prime Minister that after gathering information about the extent of damage, I will be coming to Delhi to seek assistance,” Kumaraswamy said.

He said during his visit to rain-hit areas, a few labourers, who are without any job, expressed worry about the future once the rescue centres were shut.

Officials have been instructed to provide them work under MNREGA scheme, the Chief Minister said. While a blueprint is being prepared to provide permanent housing for those who have lost their dwellings, he said instructions have been given to set up 2,000 temporary sheds in next 10 days, with all basic amenities.

Two IAS officers have been deputed to take up rehabilitation work, he said. Officials said the government has also spoken to the Madras Engineer Group (MEG) for assistance in clearing and reconstruction of roads in the district that have been severely damaged.

Five divisions of the PWD department have been shifted to the district. Detailing about the relief and rehabilitation work, officials said five teams of doctors have been deployed to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Ten teams of revenue officers have been drafted to oversee relief work, the Chief Minister said.

The Chief Minister said as schools in Kodagu district were closed for 20 days in three months, instructions have been issued to authorities concerned to complete the syllabus by taking special classes.