Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 23 (IANS) Parts of flood-ravaged Kerala began limping to normalcy as rains kept away from the state for a second successive day on Thursday, but officials admitted there was a long way to go for the human suffering to abate.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan flew to a handful of over 3,000 relief centres housing over one million people and promised that his government would do everything possible to help them overcome their woes.
Vijayan took a helicopter to see for himself the conditions in the relief camps in Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts, which were hit hardest in the deadliest floods in the state in nearly a century.
Some 370 people have died since the monsoon rains began on May 29 and more than 1 million people were forced to take shelter in relief camps this month after torrential rains and the opening of the sluice gates of dams caused a deluge.
“We will do everything possible to help the people. We know that when people reach their houses, there will be nothing (there). The government will play its role to help the people who are suffering,” Vijayan told the media at Chalakkudy.
Thursday saw a lot of people from various camps returning to their homes but complaints surfaced that some tribal families from a camp in Wayanad were forced to leave.
“We were asked to leave despite telling them that we have no house to return to. Now we are staying in our neighbour’s place,” said Thanka, a tribal woman.
Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, is back to 85 per cent of its old self, with more and more shops and offices that remained shut for almost a week reopening, residents said.
“The IT headquarters in Kochi, Infopark campus, saw more and more staffers back at work as offices reopened,” said an IT professional.
“Likewise, traffic in some places was normal like it was prior to the floods,” said a PR agency executive.
But a few kilometres away in Paravur, with thousands still in relief camps, the flood waters in low-lying areas had not drained completely.
The biggest problem appeared to be the failure to quickly dispose of carcasses of cattle and domestic pets and also the huge garbage strewn all across the previously submerged areas.
“The stink is killing us,” complained a Paravur resident. “Despite several telephone calls to authorities, nothing is happening.”
In Thiruvalla, the district headquarters of Pathanamthitta, offices and banks functioned near normally.
But many across Kerala complained that labourers were demanding as high as Rs 2,000 for a day’s work to clean up water-logged homes.
Some people in central Kerala were lucky. Teams equipped with cleaning equipment came from the state capital and spruced up their homes.
Of the 52 ration shops in Thiruvalla, 27 had their stocks damaged. The government has pledged to provide them fresh stock in two days.
For a second day in running, the Congress party blamed the Kerala government for the tragedy, with state President M.M. Hassan demanding a judicial probe into what he said was the indiscriminate opening of sluice gates of dams across the state leading to devastating floods.
But this was denied by Power Minister M.M. Mani who said there were several rounds of planning and discussions at various levels and that alerts were issued. “We did everything we could do.”
Lashing out at the Centre, CPI-M Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that clinging to rules to deny aid from foreign countries to flood-hit Kerala was nothing but an act of vengeance by the Centre.
The Modi government says a rule framed by the previous Congress-led UPA government prohibits New Delhi from accepting foreign aid following natural disasters.
The UAE, home to hundreds of thousands of Keralities, has offered Rs 700 million as relief to Kerala.