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Nipah scare pushes several states to issue alerts

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Nipah Virus

New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Nipah virus may not have spread beyond Kerala but its scare has spread across the country with several states investigating suspicious cases and issuing advisories on precautions and travel to Kerala.

With another death in Kerala on Saturday, the total number of deaths due to Nipah virus has reached 13. The majority of the deaths have been reported from Kozhikode district with some from the nearby Malappuram district in Kerala.

Even as incidence of fresh cases in Kerala has come down, state health authorities claim things are under control and the Union Health Ministry maintains virus outbreak is a localised occurrence and there is no need to panic, fear runs high across the country.

Panic gripped Himachal Pradesh when several bats were found dead at Government Senior Secondary School in Barmapapri in Sirmaur district this week. However, tests at the National Institute of Virology in Pune ruled out that the bats were carrying Nipah virus.

Himachal Pradesh Additional Chief Secretary B.K. Agarwal has advised people not to panic about the Nipah virus and said that all medical colleges in the state are prepared to deal with the situation, if it occurs.

Similarly, in Telangana, two persons, including one who visited Kerala recently, were admitted to hospitals on Friday with suspected Nipah virus infection. The state health authorities without taking any chances have sent their samples to Pune for investigation.

K. Shankar, Director, Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM), Hyderabad said that people should postpone their plans to visit Kerala in view of the situation. The authorities are conducting awareness campaigns and are also screening people at airport, railway and bus stations.

Telangana Director of Medical Education K. Ramesh Reddy, however, said there was no need for panic as the state had not recorded any confirmed case of Nipah virus.

The Bihar government issued Nipah virus alert on Saturday, asking people to take precautions. An advisory has also been issued to people with the dos and don’ts as preventive measures.

“The government has issued an alert of Nipah virus in view of its outbreak in Kerala,” said health department official R. D. Ranjan. “People have been advised to keep distance from bats and pigs. They have been asked not to consume fruits without washing them.”

Madhya Pradesh issued its advisory on Friday. While saying there was no reason to worry as the virus is generally limited to a place, Health Services Director B.N. Chouhan advised against eating fruits that are fallen on the ground or appear to have animal teeth or claw marks.

Those living in areas with a bat population or where travellers from Kerala are staying should contact the nearest government hospital if any symptoms of Nipah are found, Chouhan said and added the symptoms are headaches, fever, bodyache, cough, problems in breathing, vomiting, diarrhoea, laziness and others.

Nipah virus is transmitted to humans through infected fruit bats, pigs or other Nipah-infected persons.

With test results showing that a particular variety of bats, found in and around Kozhikode and mostly at the worst-affected Perambara town, is not carrying the virus, a special team from Pune will see how best they can take samples from other varieties of bats also found in the district.

Cities

Al Ansari Exchange Donates half a million dirhams to Kerala Flood Victims

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Mohamed Ali Al Ansari

Al Ansari Exchange, the UAE-based foreign exchange and worldwide money transfer company, has announced a donation of half a million dirhams to aid in the relief efforts in the South Indian state of Kerala that has been ravaged by unprecedented floods.

Incessant rains and floods in Kerala have led to the death of hundreds of Indian citizens and have left thousands of people homeless. To offer further support to the victims of this calamity, the company has launched a service through which, donations can be made to the Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) with no service charges, through its branches across the UAE.

Mohamed Ali Al Ansari, Chairman and Managing Director, Al Ansari Exchange, said: “We are keen to support Kerala flood victims in view of the massive devastation and damage caused by unprecedented floods that has struck the region. Considered to be the region’s worst flood in last 100 years, the crisis has caused several deaths and displacement of thousands of people in Kerala.

Through this contribution and by waiving off the service charges on all donations made to the Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund through our branches, we aim to make a positive impact in mitigating the crisis Kerala is going through and offer support to the victims of this calamity.”

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Cities

Telangana rushes 100-tonne food to Kerala

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Hyderabad, Aug 18 (IANS) The Telangana government has dispatched 100 metric tonnes of nutritious food for children in flood-hit Kerala.

The food manufactured by Telangana Foods, a state government enterprise, was airlifted to Kerala on Saturday.

According to officials, the food known as ‘Balamrutham’ is worth Rs 52.5 lakh.

The food was airlifted by two Defence aircraft (C17 Globemaster) from Begumpet Airport.

The food is expected to provide supplementary nutrition to about 50,000 children for 10 days, said the officials.

This assistance is in addition to Rs 25 crore aid announced by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao on Friday.

The Chief Minister has directed officials to provide all necessary help to Kerala in the relief operations.

Rao has also appealed to industrialists and businessmen to come forward and donate generously for the flood-hit Kerala.

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Cities

Kerala flood toll 357, 50,000 rescued, red alert continues in 11 districts

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Kerala Flood

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 18 (IANS) The death toll due to rains and floods in Kerala has gone up to 357 this monsoon season, as 22 more deaths were reported on Saturday even as around 50,000 people were rescued in different parts of the state, and red alert continued in 11 districts following prediction of more rains.

The India Meteorological Department forecast on Saturday afternoon that widespread rains, with heavy rains at isolated places, is likely to continue over Kerala following low pressure area very likely to develop over northwest Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood during the next 24 hours.

While around 50,000 people were rescued in districts like Ernakulam, Chengannur, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur, there are still many more waiting to be rescued.

Barring Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kasargode, the remaining 11 districts of Kerala continued to be on red alert and can expect more rains.

The worst affected places include Aluva, Chalakudy, Chengannur, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta, where massive rescue operations were on as scores of persons were rescued.

Media houses continued to be flooded with requests from friends and relatives of those stranded in affected areas.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a review meeting in Kochi that the death toll since May 29 had climbed to 357. Over 3.53 lakh affected persons had been lodged in over 2,000 relief camps, he said.

Modi sanctioned Rs 500 crore to the flood-battered state, apart from Rs 100 crore announced earlier by the Centre on August 12, before returning to Delhi after an aerial survey of the affected areas.

The 22 deaths reported during the day were in Ernakulam, Thrissur, Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts.

Vijayan told the media here the situation is “very serious and grave”.

“The death toll would have been higher, but for the work we did. Things are under control,” said Vijayan, whose government was flayed by Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala for failing to take up rescue and relief work effectively.

Food Minister P. Thilothaman, camping at Chengannur, told the media: “The need of the hour is to provide food packets and drinking water to the people. About 15 small boats of the Navy are expected to join rescue and relief work. But, after dusk, no rescues are possible. Helicopters are also needed for faster evacuation.”

Meanwhile, anger mounted across Kerala as coordination of rescue work went haywire due to the magnitude of the calamity.

flood-hit Kerala

Kerala: An aerial view of the flood-hit areas of Kerala on Aug 18, 2018.

“There are several people who are waiting to be rescued in areas like Pandanad (near Chengannur) and I saw two bodies floating in the water. If there is anymore delay in, things will taken a turn for the worse. We are drinking rain water to keep us going…,” said a resident of Pandanad.

On late Saturday evening, a 150-member National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team started rescue operations in and around affected areas of Chengannur.

Congress legislator V.D. Sateeshan, who was spearheading the rescue operations in Paravur in Ernakulam district, said that he stood before a rescue boat team with folded hands and they obliged and rescued several people.

“In the camp at my place, there are 7,000 people and despite passionate pleas this camp has not received any government help at all. Several people have to take medicines for lifestyle diseases, but no medical kits have come. I have spoken to the Chief Minister down to all… All I got is assurances,” said Sateeshan.

National award winning actor Salimkumar, after remaining holed up in his house along with 45 others for three days, was finally rescued by a fishing boat on Saturday evening.

“I was receiving daily calls from NDRF officials even from Delhi that rescue will happen very soon, but help came after three days,” said Salimkumar.

Flaying the state for “failing in the endeavour”, Leader of Opposition Chennithala said: “I have been flooded with calls from the affected persons. Even now, thousands of people are stranded. The Chief Minister dismissed with contempt when I said this week that rescue and relief should be handed over to the Army. I do not want to blame anyone but it has been proved beyond doubt that the state government has failed.”

Alappuzha Superintendent of Police A.P. Surendran said: “Things are moving fast on Saturday. Helicopters and more boats have been pressed into service. We are confident we will be able to rescue more stranded people.”

More fishing boats from various places reached the affected areas during the day.

Alappuzha District Collector S. Suhas said since morning 150 boats including house boats have been engaged in rescuing people and “today (Saturday) we have by now evacuated about 75 per cent of people who were waiting to be rescued”.

Kerala Floods

Relief material being dispatched to Trivandrum

“Around two lakhs people are now in various camps. This could well be the biggest rescue operation. At some places the water is very rough and various types of boats are rescuing people,” Suhas .

Journalist-turned-CPI-M legislator Veena George on Saturday turned critical “due to the way the government machinery in Pathanamthitta has been working”.

“None has a clue of how many people have been rescued and how many are left to be rescued. There seems to be disconnect in coordination of the operations,” said George.

The situation in Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad and Wayanad inched towards comparative normalcy as rains slowed and water level receded, with many living in crowded relief camps awaiting to return home.

But a landslide near Nelliyampathy in Palakkad district has left around 1,000 people cut off from the mainland and the Army is working to clear the debris.

At several places in waterlogged areas, banks could not function normally since staff failed to report for the duty due to flooding.

Railway services between Ernakulam and Thrissur remained suspended on Saturday with long-distance trains diverted via the Nagercoil route.

A trial run on the Kottayam sector took place later in the day, as all services on this route were suspended for the past two days.

Certain blockades on the Thrissur-Palakkad-Aluva highway was cleared for traffic. Army personnel worked hard to clear the roads to Munnar.

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.

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