Let’s accept UAE aid, says Vijayan; 1.2 mn pack relief camps (Roundup)

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Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 22 (IANS) Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday pressed the Modi government to accept the $100 million aid offered by the UAE for flood relief as the numbers sheltered in over 3,000 camps in the state rose to 1.2 million.

Vijayan’s comments came as Congress leaders too, in a rare show of political unanimity, urged the central government not to reject the Rs 700 crore offered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), home to hundreds of thousands of Keralites.

There were no rains for a second day in Kerala. Thousands returned to their flood-hit homes to clean up and start life anew. But many more were simply dazed on seeing what remained of their homes.

A labourer, Rocky, committed suicide after seeing his flood-battered house near Eranakulam, police said. He is survived by his wife and two children.

It was the third such suicide since the waters began to recede after the century’s worst flooding in Kerala. Health Minister K.K. Shailaja said people were distressed and announced counselling sessions at relief camps.

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Vijayan said that over 1.2 million people were still in 3,314 relief camps across the state after having all or most of their possessions.

“Today there was none to be rescued. It shows that our first phase of operations – rescue – has been successful,” he said.

Vijayan said that according to the National Disaster Policy of 2016, funds from foreign governments can be accepted.

“As soon as this (UAE) aid was announced, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that this was an indeed welcome gesture.

“Now with media reports, if need be, we will speak to the Prime Minister,” he said.

India has refused to accept overseas donations for flood relief in Kerala, Thailand’s Ambassador to India Chutintorn Sam Gongsakdi said.

Vijayan said the UAE “cannot be considered any other nation”. “Indians, especially Keralites, have contributed immensely in their nation building,” he said.

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Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan had telephoned Modi and made the offer of assistance, the Chief Minister had said earlier.

Two former Congress Chief Ministers, A.K. Antony and Oommen Chandy, urged the Modi government to rewrite rules so that financial support from abroad could be accepted.

The central government’s offer of help to Kerala was “disappointing”, Chandy added.

Even as the number of people in the relief camps has gone up, people were seen returning to their homes in Kozhikode, Malappuram, Pathanamthitta, parts of Thrissur and Ernakulam.

A large number of volunteers was seen engaging in cleaning up operations of houses that had been submerged in water for days.

Earlier, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala told the media that the flood tragedy was caused by lack of coordination between the Power Minister, the Water Resource Ministers and the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB).

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“This monsoon, Kerala received 41.44 per cent more rains and all the (sluice gates of the) dams were opened without proper analysis or impact studies… People were totally unaware that the dams were being opened,” he said.

“This is nothing but a man-made disaster.”

Vijayan hit back, saying this was not the time for fault-finding. In any case, he accused Chennithala of speaking without knowing the facts.

“What one should realise is that from August 14 to 17, in Idukki alone 811 mm of rain was received, which is more than double of what it normally gets.

“It was just not the dam waters but rain water added to the flooding… In some areas where floods occurred there are no dams.”

Dam Safety Authority Chairman Justice (retd) C.N. Ramachandran Nair added: “Things are being exaggerated and I do not believe all the allegations that have been raised are true.”

–IANS

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