Rains abate, flood waters recede as relief pours into Kerala (Roundup)

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Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 20 (IANS) With the rains that battered Kerala for a week finally abating on Monday, water levels dropped in the swollen rivers even as the number of people who have taken shelter in relief camps crossed the one million mark.

A total of 10,28,000 people were now housed in 3,274 camps in the flood-hit districts, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media while tonnes of emergency aid poured in from all over the country.

Officials have so far admitted to some 370 deaths, most of them occurring after the monsoon rains turned into a fury on August 9, forcing authorities to open the sluice gates of numerous dams across the state.

Monday did see some people return to their homes from camps in Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram and parts of Pathanamthitta after volunteers working selflessly helped to clean up their muddy homes.

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Fifty cases of snake bites were reported in these areas as snakes from overflowing ponds had entered homes, the officials and volunteers said.

Rains in the catchment areas of the major dams in Idukki district subsided. The outflow of water from both the Mullaperiyar and Idukki dams has been reduced.

As a result, the water intake into the Periyar and its tributaries that flow through Ernakulam and Thrissur has come down considerably.

By and large the sky was clear on Monday.

On Monday, helicopters were engaged in rescue operations in places where people were still marooned — in parts of Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts. Small boats helped to ferry people from interior Chengannur and Pandalam areas.

Other helicopters transported food and relief materials from here to affected areas.

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Finance Minister Thomas Issac, who is overseeing the rescue operations in Kuttanadu area in Alappuzha district, said 1.25 lakh people had been moved to relief camps in the district.

Neliyamapathy in Palakkad remained cut off from the main district headquarters as the roads have been badly damaged. Essential items are being airdropped.

An Army officer said the roads would be made motorable, at least for jeeps, on Tuesday.

Waters in the Cochin airport, which was shut on August 15 after flood waters entered the operational area, receded on Monday. Small aircraft started operating from the Cochin Naval airbase.

On Monday, following a request from the Kerala government, the State Level Bankers Committee decided to provide a moratorium on agricultural loans for a year.

Thiruvanathapuram Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor meanwhile flew to Geneva to meet international humanitarian agencies.

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While seeking help was the prerogative of the Indian government, “I am here in close consultation with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to explore what help could be possible”, he tweeted.

The central government flew 100 tonnes of pulses and 52 tonnes of emergency medicines to Kerala, which is receiving donations in cash and kind from all over the country. Volunteers have also poured in from many states.

State Revenue Minister E. Chandrasekheran said that all those who suffered property losses would be compensated.

The railways started operations in the Kottayam and Shornur routes.

The Kerala State Road Transport Corp too began services from many depots and it was expected to be fully functional in a day or two.

Kerala has faced the heaviest rains and floods since 1924, leading to unprecedented destruction.

–IANS

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