THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Aug 19 : Red alert has been withdrawn for all districts of Kerala on Sunday, the first time since August 9, while Orange alert has been issued for 10 districts and yellow alert for 2 districts. Massive rescue operations are underway across the state as essential services have taken a hit, with shortages in medical supplies and drinking water reported from several places.The death toll due to the devastating rains and floods in Kerala increased to 370, as two more deaths were reported on Sunday with rescue operations continuing in the worst affected districts of Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur.
The water level in the Idukki reservoir was 2402.28 ft while water flow into Periyar river is 913 cusecs per hour. Two shutters have been closed.
RAF team recovered one body from Nemmara landslide area in Palakkad district on Sunday morning and Deputy Commandant RAF Coimbatore unit, said,”We have recovered total 10 bodies from the area. Landslides are still occurring in the area,it was a tough task to recover the bodies”.
Meanwhile, flight operations are set to resume from Kochi Naval Base from Monday giving a boost to rescue and relief operations in the flood-ravaged state.
The rescue work involving the armed forces and State government agencies was focussed on Chengannur and Chalakudy. Amid frantic calls for help from hundreds of stranded citizens, the Army deployed bigger boats in the flooded areas. As many as 22 helicopters and 119 boats of the Navy and Coast Guard were also involved.
State-run Air India’s subsidiary — Alliance Air — will commence operations from Kochi naval base to aide the rescue operations in flood-hit Kerala.
Squadron leader V Joshi, who conducted relief operations at Chengannur , said, ” the situation is quite bad. We are trying to rescue people. Right now we are giving them food and water so that they can at least survive till water recedes.”
“Anbodu Kochi”, a team of volunteers, has established collection centres to collect relief materials for Kerala flood victims.The team has also started call centre to help victims;around 40 people are on mobile and laptops to receive calls and communicate callers’ needs to concerned depatments.
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.
But there were reports of fresh rains from these places resulting in a decrease in the water levels.
Meanwhile, a group of stranded fishermen who came to help with the rescue work in Alapuzzha from the state capital complained over the lack of coordination between authorities.
“We rescued several people but now there is no one to help us return to where we came from with our boats. We risked our lives in the rescue work but now there’s no help for us,” the group said.
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 stste-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.