The death toll in the Kerala floods rose to 200 on Saturday, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the state to assess the disaster. He will undertake an aerial survey of the affected areas on Saturday.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed the situation caused by torrential rain, flash floods and landslides in the state as “really serious”. Although he had quoted the toll as 164 on Friday morning, 16 more were reported in the hours that followed. Over 120 people have lost their lives in the last two days.
Vijayan said that although two lakh people have been shifted to as many as 1,568 relief camps, many are still stranded. Air, railway and road services remained disrupted in many areas for over five days, and marooned people flooded government and media offices with desperate phone calls. Fresh landslides were also reported from Wayanad and Kannur districts.
“We are trying our best to rescue marooned people. Saving lives is our main concern now. Rescue operations are being taken up on a war footing with choppers and boats,” Vijayan said, adding that over 15,000 people were evacuated in the last two days. He dispelled reports that a few dams in the state were in the danger of bursting.
Relief and rescue teams deployed by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as well as three armed forces launched a massive relief operation – distributing food packets and other essentials – across the state. However, despite their best efforts, marooned people complained that they had to survive without food or potable water for many days. “The magnitude of the disaster is really great. We are finding it difficult to manage such a volume of affected people,” a relief official said in Kochi.
In the midst of the disaster, Air Force personnel airlifted a pregnant woman from a flooded village near Aluva in a dramatic rescue. Hours later, the woman – 25-year-old Sajitha Jabeel – gave birth to a baby boy at a private hospital in Kochi. Jabeel’s relatives had alerted chopper-borne rescue officials after her water broke.
Many areas faced acute fuel scarcity, and hospitals complained of oxygen shortage. A Railway spokesperson said they plan to seek Army help to clear the tracks and run emergency trains.
However, the Met office’s prediction that the stagnant low pressure in the Bay of Bengal was moving towards central India brought some relief to the battered state. Authorities later withdrew the red alert from north Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargode districts.
Although rain subsided in the worst-hit Idukki and Wayanad districts, the water level of the Periyar river surged again – leaving many towns on its banks submerged.
First Published: Aug 18, 2018 01:45 IST