THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: There is welcome news: the Indian Meteorological Department has said that rainfall activity over Kerala is likely to diminish over the next five days starting Monday. As the rain fury finally abated on Sunday, 724,649 people remained in 5,645 camps in the state following “one of the worst ever floods” that have left about 370 dead and caused unprecedented destruction.
‘‘Our prime concern was to save lives. It appears it has been met,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media. But even as he maintained that the most destructive phase of the floods had ended, various WhatsApp groups continued to be flooded with requests for help, especially from Alappuzha. What lessened the gloom was the confirmation that commercial flights will start operating from Kochi Naval Base from Monday. Two special trains will also run to Kolkata from Trivandrum and Ernakulam. In fact, all train services are expected to be restored on all lines by today evening.
Accordingly, the Red Alert, which means “be prepared”, has been withdrawn from all districts. Yellow Alert, which means “be aware,” has been issued in Idukki, Kozhikode and Kannur districts. Union minister JP Nadda said while no outbreak of communicable disease has been reported, health experts say “once the flood water starts receding, the environment would be conducive for water-borne disease”. The state has been told to be alert for “early warning signs of an outbreak,” the health ministry said in a statement.
Hundreds of thousands converged in halls and auditoriums of schools, temples, churches, and mosques with little or no toilet facilities. Some people in the relief camps were finding it difficult to access food and water. Videos on social media showed groups of people breaking open shops to access food. Some vendors made a killing because of food shortages. Green chillies, even after police intervention, was selling at Rs 120 a kg in Kochi. Onions, potatoes and cabbage were selling at Rs 90 a kg. The retail cost of rice and sugar has shot up by Rs 15.
With over 6.33 lakh people taking shelter in 3,000 relief camps the government has directed the central ministries to focus on providing essential commodities and medicines and restoration of vital services in the flood-hit state. Meanwhile, Pope Francis has urged followers to help the state with “concrete support” and also prayed for the affected population. Incidentally, on Sunday, about 3,500 marooned people were rescued in Karnataka’s worst flood-hit Kodagu district. Of the hundreds stranded across this flood-hit hilly district, about 270 km from Bengaluru, the 3,500 rescued till Sunday noon have been shifted to 30 relief camps and efforts were on to reach the others held up on hilltops.