The death toll due to the devastating rains and floods in Kerala has mounted to 370, as two more deaths were reported on Sunday with rescue operations continuing in the worst affected districts of Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur.
Authorities also withdrew the red alert which was issued in these three districts and the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Sunday predicted moderate rains in a few districts of the state.
The worst affected places where people have remained stranded for the past three days without food or water include Chengannur, Pandalam, Thiruvalla, several areas in Pathanamthitta district and in Ernakulam’s Aluva, Angamaly and Paravur.
According to the meteorological department, Kerala is not expected to receive heavy rainfall from Monday. Earlier on Saturday, it had issued a red alert in all districts of the state except Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kasaragod.
It is believed that thousands of people were still stuck on the rooftops of houses and community centres as rescue workers are yet to reach many flooded areas.
With water level receding at various places, it has become difficult for motor boats to make their way to the stranded people.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to urgently declare Kerala a natural disaster.
PM Modi, who conducted an aerial survey on Saturday, pledged Rs 500 crore in central aid and promised more helicopters, boats and other equipment needed to expand the rescue operation in the still unfolding emergency.
The flood hit state has also received financial aid from other states. Andhra Pradesh has promised aid of Rs 5 crore, Delhi government Rs 10 crore, Karnataka Rs 10 crore, Odisha Rs 5 crore, Punjab Rs 10 crore, Tamil Nadu Rs 10 crore, Telangana Rs 25 crore and Haryana has announced a donation of Rs 10 crore.
V.D. Sateeshan, a Congress legislator from Paravur, Ernakulam, slammed the state Health Ministry over its failure to send relief teams.
In response, Health Minister K.K. Shailaja said that although the water level has come down in many areas, medical facilities might not have reached certain regions due to the magnitude of the crisis.
“This is because medical professionals found it difficult to reach the affected areas and by now it has been almost resolved. We need a huge quantity of medicines. A major health drive is being planned to prevent communicable diseases,” the minister said.
She added that medical teams from neighbouring states will arrive soon.
“Now the problem is that with the water level coming down, it might not be able to operate the big boats and hence we will have to use small or rubber boats. There are areas in Chengannur where rescue missions are yet to reach and also in some interior water logged areas in Alappuzha,” said a group of rescue workers in Alappuzha.
Rains in the catchment areas of the big dams in Idukki district have also subsided with the authorities shutting two of the five floodgates at the Idukki dam. The outflow of water from both the Mullaperiyar and Idukki dams have also reduced.
As a result of this, the water flow into the Periyar and its tributaries that flow through Ernakulam and Thrissur has come down.
On Sunday, the Kottayam rail sector restarted operations with special passenger trains.
The state-run Kerala State Road Transport Corporation also restarted operations on the MC Road to Kottayam.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, who arrived in the state capital earlier on Sunday, told the media that the central assistance that has been sanctioned was too little.
“The response from all across the country has been very well what needs to be done now is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should declare this crisis as a anational disaster,” said Yechury.
Responding to the Kerala opposition’s demand that the rescue operations should be handed over to the Army, state CPI-M secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala was playing politics when the state was facing one of the worst ever natural disasters.
“The rules are very clear and it is that the Army should act under the National Disaster Management Authority. It’s not possible to hand it over to the Army and Chennithala is playing politics,” said Balakrishnan.
Kerala is facing the heaviest rains and consequent widespread floods and destruction since 1924, which the state estimates has caused a loss of over Rs 19,500 crore.
(With agency inputs)