Kerala floods declared calamity of ‘severe nature’

Varun Aggarwal T V Jayan Delhi/Mumbai August 20 | Updated on August 20, 2018 Published on August 20, 2018

Flood-affected people queue up to receive food inside a college auditorium in Kochi on Monday   -  REUTERS

The massive flood in Kerala has been declared a calamity of a “severe nature”, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Monday.

“Keeping in view the intensity and magnitude of the floods and landslides in Kerala, this is a calamity of a severe nature for all practical purposes,” said an MHA official.

The Centre on Monday dispatched 100 tonnes of pulses and 52 tonnes of essential medicines to the State. Around 20 tonnes of bleaching powder and 1 crore chlorine tablets will reach Kerala on Tuesday, a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), chaired by Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha, was told on Monday.

The NCMC meeting, the fifth in the last five days to review relief-and-rescue operations, was told by the Kerala Chief Secretary that flood waters have begun receding in the State as rains had reduced.

No outbreak of any disease has been reported so far, the NCMC said.

Joint effort

According to an official release, the Ministry of Power has moved equipment such as electricity meters, coils and transformers to restore the distribution network. The Department of Telecommunications said 77,000 mobile towers of the total of 85,000 are already operational, and of the 1,047 telephone exchanges, all but 13 are functional.

DoT also operationalised a helpline number (1948) to help trace missing persons. The Petroleum Ministry said it had made 12,000 kilolitres of kerosene available in the State. Adequate LPG and aviation fuel have also been made available.

Kerala received some respite from showers on Monday, even as the massive task of rehabilitating thousands, and their health, remained major concerns.

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court, hearing a public interest litigation, suggested that the State immediately begin the task of assessing damages from the flood and formulate a rehabilitation plan.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday directed government officials to ensure that flood relief also reaches migrant workers from other States. “There are thousands of migrant workers in the affected areas, many of who lack shelter & food,” the Chief Minister wrote on Twitter.

Air fares capped

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday stepped in to prevent a surge in air fares for flights from Kerala, after some carriers priced the Thiruvananthapuram-Delhi ticket for Tuesday and Wednesday at ₹85,000. The average rates, at ₹8,000, are less than a tenth of that.

Following talks with the airlines, the DGCAsaid it is constantly monitoring airfares on 32 direct routes operating to/from Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Coimbatore and Mangaluru.

Of the 71 arrivals and 74 departures of scheduled domestic airlines to and from the Cochin airport, 23 arrivals and 24 departures have been rescheduled and an additional 19 arrivals and departures have been diverted to and from Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Coimbatore airports, the DGCA said in a statement on Friday evening.

The DGCA requested airlines to cap the fare at ₹10,000 on longer routes and around ₹8,000 on shorter routes to or from Kerala and nearby airports.

A tweet by Suhel Seth accused the airlines of profiting from people's misery along with a screenshot of fares that were as high as ₹87,000 for one way flight from Thiruvananthapuram to New Delhi.

Is the DGCA asleep? Look at these vultures (other than @airvistara) and see how they are making money through the misery of others? Absolute shame! @sureshpprabhu : severe action needs to be taken... @narendramodi @PMOIndia

The prices now average ₹8,000 for the Thiruvananthapuram-New Delhi route.

Toll mounts

The death toll since August 8 has risen to 216, officials said, adding that over 7.24 lakh displaced people have been sheltered in 5,645 relief camps dotting the State.

With inputs from Vinson Kurian in Thiruvananthapuram

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Published on August 20, 2018
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