Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 21 (IANS) For the first time in many days, the sun shone brightly over Kerala on Tuesday even as hundreds of thousands remained in relief camps while many who returned home broke down after seeing the enormity of the destruction.
There were no rains and the level of flood water in several areas of the state that got submerged had receded, officials and residents said. But the low-lying areas in the districts of Ernakulam, Idukki and Thrissur were still under a sheet of water.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), home to hundreds of thousands of Keralites, has pledged $100 million for relief work in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced.
“A new Kerala has to be built… Funds are the prime requisite for this. This will be raised by us through various sources besides getting it from the Centre and other agencies,” he told the media.
Both central and state agencies besides NGOs continued to rescue those still stranded in flooded areas and provide relief on a massive scale in the wake of the worst flooding in the state in a century that has left some 370 people dead and caused widespread destruction.
In Neliyamapathy in Palakkad district, helicopters ferried pregnant women and others seeking medical help from a marooned spot while dumping food for more than 1,000 people still cut off after roads in the region were severely damaged.
In Chengannur, the last of those trapped in water-logged places had been rescued, said local legislator Saji Cherian.
Likewise, rescue operations were declared over in Paravur in Ernakulam district, one of the most affected places since torrential rains and the opening of sluice gates of many dams caused a deluge.
In Wayanad, people began to start going back to their homes, now filled with mud and filth. But 800 tribal families were distraught as their homes had been washed away.
“We have nothing left. And we have nowhere to go,” cried a tribal woman.
In Malappuram and Kozhikode districts too, many were seen leaving the camps.
“We have given a departure kit to everyone and it includes all the basic things for people to restart life,” said a government official.
The Kerala Police on Tuesday took charge of all the 3,000 relief camps.
Police chief Loknath Behra warned that appropriate action would be taken against all traders who jack up prices of essential commodities.
“There will be no leniency shown to such people and those who engage in spreading fake messages and news. Already a few are behind the bars.”
Murali, a carpenter, lamented that there was nothing in his house that could be salvaged. “I have lost Rs 50,000 worth of equipment. I have to start from the scratch.”
A freelance photographer in Chengannur broke down when he found his most precious camera destroyed.
Said a woman in Pandanadu: “We are left just with the clothes we are wearing.”
Meanwhile, a Coast Guard ship arrived at the Cochin Port with 48 tonnes of relief materials.
Several groups have launched an initiative to clean people’s houses.
Aravind Sasi, a journalist here, said he had already completed the cleaning of a house in Thiruvalla.
“We have all the cleaning materials and we have an electrician also… Tomorrow we will reach Ranni where we will clean up around three houses,” he said.
Vijayan said they would ask the Centre to allow Kerala to increase the market borrowings from 3 per cent of the state’s total revenue to 4.5 per cent. As a result an additional Rs 10,000 crore can be raised.
The Chief Minister said he would demand a special package for Kerala from the Modi government.
On Tuesday, the Centre waived of customs and import duty on all materials arriving from abroad.