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09 December 2023

Aid workers in India warn scale of flood damage unclear


The people of the flood-battered Indian state of Kerala are “in a great struggle to rebuild their lives,” the state’s top official said Wednesday, as aid workers warned it could take days before the full scope of the destruction is clear.

Though rains have stopped over the past three days and floodwaters are receding, vast swaths of the tropical state, known for its idyllic villages and beautiful beaches, remain underwater or coated with mud, and many people have no drinking water or electricity.

“We know the humanitarian needs are enormous, but it will be some time before we know just how big that is,” Ray Kancharla, a manager with the aid group Save The Children, said in a Tuesday statement. “Roofs and walls have collapsed; roads have been completely washed away.”

He estimated it could take “well over a week” before the effects of the devastation are clear.

Photo: AFP

Torrential downpours began hammering Kerala on Aug. 8, more than two months into the annual monsoon season, setting off devastating floods that left more than 200 people dead and sent more than 800,000 fleeing for dry land.

“The people of Kerala are in a great struggle to rebuild their lives after the flood,” said the state’s chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, sending his greetings for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. “May this Eid be an inspiration for all of them,” he said on Twitter.

On the island of Kunjunnikkara, about 20 kilometers (10 miles) from Kochi, hundreds of Muslims undeterred by the flooding gathered Wednesday at a local mosque for Eid prayers. They also prayed at a nearby cemetery for those who had lost their lives in the floods.

More than a million people in India flood relief camps

More than one million people have packed relief camps to escape devastating monsoon floods that have killed more than 410 people in India's southwestern state of Kerala, officials said Tuesday.

About 50,000 homes have been destroyed, according to one Kerala legislator, and people are flocking to the camps as the scale of the desolation is revealed by receding waters.

Thousands of army, navy and air force personnel have fanned out across the state to help those stranded in remote and hilly areas.

Photo: AP

A total of 1,028,000 people were now recorded in about 3,200 relief camps across the state, a state government spokesman told AFP.

Six more bodies were found Monday, he added, taking the death toll to more than 410 since the monsoon started in June.

Indian military scales down flood rescue operations

The Indian military is scaling down rescue operations in the southern state of Kerala, where intense floods killed more than 200 people and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Indian navy spokesman Capt. D.K. Sharma says decreasing rains and flood waters means the navy can cut back on its rescue teams in Kerala. He said in a Monday statement that the navy had rescued nearly 16,000 people in the state.

People have begun leaving Kerala's thousands of relief camps over the past day or so, heading to their homes to check on damage and begin the long process of cleaning up.

Photo: AFP

Intense rains, which began Aug. 8 in Kerala, had decreased substantially by Monday. Meteorologists are expecting light-to-moderate rains in coming days.

Bodies found as floods recede in India's Kerala

Receding flood waters left Indian troops and rescuers the grim task Monday of hunting for bodies left by the worst monsoon in a century in Kerala state as the death toll rose above 400.

With nearly three quarters of a million people packed into relief camps in the southern state, known for its tourist beaches and hill resorts, authorities also fear outbreaks of disease.

After a week of fierce downpours, rainfall eased Monday and flood levels have fallen in many districts. Army helicopters and boats kept up missions to find trapped survivors and drop food and water in isolated villages.

Officials said 22,000 people were rescued on Sunday. At least 30 bodies were also found taking the death toll above 200 since the torrential rain started falling on August 8 and more than 400 since the monsoon started in June.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the priority now was to provide clean drinking water and restore power supplies to the state of 33 million people.

"The total number of people taking refuge at the 5,645 relief camps has risen to 724,649," Vijayan told reporters Sunday.

He said health officers would be deployed in each village to check the spread of communicable diseases.

Thousands of army, navy and air force personnel have fanned out to help those stranded in remote and hilly areas. Dozens of helicopters have been dropping tonnes of food, medicine and water over areas cut off due to damaged roads and bridges.

In worst hit areas such as Thrissur and Chengannur, rescuers are searching inundated houses where they have found the bodies of those trapped by the fast rising floodwaters.

Photo: AFP

"They didn't think that it would rise this high - 10 to 15 feet at some places - when the initial warnings were issued," said Ashraf Ali K.M, who is leading the search in the small town of Mala in Thrissur.

Fishermen have sailed inland from Kerala's coast to join the search, as volunteers set up soup kitchens and an international appeal was made for financial help.

Vijayan praised the fishermen for joining the rescue mission.

The state government said each boat would get 3,000 rupees ($43) for each day of their work and that authorities would pay for any damage to them.

The floods have caused an estimated $3 billion in damage but the bill is likely to rise as the scale of devastation becomes clearer.

Kerala death toll rises to 357

The death toll from the worst flooding to hit India's Kerala state in a century has jumped to 357, authorities said on Sunday, with losses to infrastructure estimated at some $3 billion.

"Since May 29, when the monsoon starts in Kerala, a total of 357 people have lost their lives until now," a statement from the state's information officer said,.

Some 353,000 people have taken shelter in 3,026 relief camps as thousands of army, navy and air force troops fan out to help those still stranded. Roads and 134 bridges have suffered damage, isolating remote areas in the hilly districts of the state which are worst affected.

A total of AED10 million has been collected by the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation through UAE-based Indian tycoons and businesses for Kerala flood victims, a few hours only after the Foundation had launched its relief campaign in response to the directives of UAE leaders to form a national emergency committee to provide assistance to the flood-striken Indian state.

Photo: Reuters

Indian businessmen Yusuff Ali M.A., owner of the Lulu Hypermarket chain worldwide, and Dr. B. R. Shetty, Chief Executive Officer, Executive Vice Chairman of NMC Health PLC, have donated AED5.00 million each, in response to the UAE emergency campaign for standing by the flood-hit victims.