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Bod­ies found as floods recede in India’s Ker­ala

Peo­ple wade through grad­u­al­ly reced­ing flood waters in Par­avur on the out­skirts of Kochi in the south Indi­an state of Ker­ala, on August 20, 2018. Reced­ing flood waters left Indi­an troops and res­cuers the grim task August 20 of hunt­ing for bod­ies left by the worst mon­soon in a cen­tu­ry in Ker­ala state as the death toll rose above 400. / AFP PHOTO / MANJUNATH KIRAN

Flood­wa­ters reced­ed in Ker­ala on Mon­day, leav­ing Indi­an res­cuers the grim task of retriev­ing bod­ies as the death toll from the worst mon­soon rains in a cen­tu­ry 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 more than a week of fierce down­pours, rain­fall eased Mon­day and flood lev­els fell in some 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.

At least 1,000 were feared strand­ed in five vil­lages around Chen­gan­nur, one of the dis­tricts worst hit by the del­uge.

An Indi­an Navy team made a tem­po­rary rope bridge across a stream in Thris­sur dis­trict on Sun­day to res­cue 100 peo­ple strand­ed for days.

Com­mer­cial flight oper­a­tions to Kochi, the state’s main city, resumed Mon­day after the navy opened its airstrips for small pas­sen­ger air­craft. The city’s inter­na­tion­al air­port has been ordered shut until Sun­day.

The floods have left wide­spread des­o­la­tion in the city.

Mumt­haz fled her home in the Malikapeedi­ka dis­trict of Kochi with her daugh­ters aged 13 and nine last Thurs­day.

She went to her husband’s par­ents in anoth­er neigh­bour­hood but with­in a few hours even that was also flood­ed and they had to be res­cued and tak­en to a relief camp.

Hunt for miss­ing
“It was sur­re­al. The water was close to the knees at one point and with­in a few min­utes it was touch­ing five feet with a cur­rent so strong that we saw big cars float­ing like tin cans,” said Mumt­haz, who has only one name.

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.

They didn’t think that it would rise this high — 10 to 15 feet (3–4.5 metres) 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.

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