THIRUVANANTHAPURAM/KOCHI: As rains abated and rescue operations were in the final stages, flood-hit Kerala was faced with the gigantic task of rehabilitating lakhs of people rendered homeless and preventing outbreak of diseases, while the death toll mounted to 216, officials said.
Over 7.24 lakh displaced people have been sheltered in 5,645 relief camps dotting the state, they said.
Lt. Gen. D R Soni, the chief of the Army's Southern Command, told a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram that rescue operations were still continuing and drones being used to help reach to people trapped in areas not easily accessible.
He said 1,500 army personnel were engaged in rescue operations and people stranded on rooftops and inaccesible areas were being winched with the help of defence helicopters.
Meanwhile, with the recovery of six more bodies at Paroor in Ernakulam district yesterday night, the death toll in the current spell of monsoon fury has risen to 216.
Efforts were now under way to clear the houses of the debris to make them habitable, officials said, underscoring the need for making available disinfectants like bleaching powder in adequate quantities to prevent outbreak of water- borne diseases.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Kerala is striving together as one to overcome the "catastrophic" floods with "monumental strength".
Referring to some messages being circulated on social media denigrating the relief efforts by the government, he said in a Facebook post that anyone trying to "pull us down will face serious consequences".
Southern Army Commander Soni highlighted the mammoth logistical problem the force was facing while trying to rescue people and reach them relief.
"In the Southern Command, we are working on a relief plan. 27 boats were brought from Jodhpur, 15 from Bhopal. Teams have come from Bengaluru, communication and life jackets from Pune," he said, referring to the logistical nightmare in tackling the situation.
He said the Army wanted to ensure that before the next monsoon all such requirements were "centrally located" in the region to ensure everything was in place at the time of a calamity.
Kerala Water Authority and Kerala State Electricity Board were trying to restore water and power supply in vast areas that are without power and tap water for the last several days.
Commercial flight operations from the naval airport at Kochi commenced today with the first Air India flight from Bengaluru arriving this morning.
Small aircraft are being operated from the naval airport as the Kochi International Airport has shut operations till August 26 following flooding of the runways.
Relief material, including provisions, water and fuel have started arriving at the Kochi port from different parts of the country, official sources said.
A team of around 100 doctors and paramedical staff from Maharashtra left for Kerala today to help the flood- affected people.
Maharashtra has sent 30 tonne aid consisting of ready-to-eat food packets, milk powder, blankets, bed sheets, clothes, soaps and sanitary napkins to Kerala, an official release said in Mumbai.
The Centre has, meanwhile asked industrialists and business organisations to extend whatever help they can to Kerala, which is facing a "humanitarian crisis", Union minister Suresh Prabhu said in the national capital.
Prabhu, who holds the portfolios of Commerce and Industry as well as Civil Aviation, told PTI that domestic airlines have been persuaded to carry cargo free of cost to the state.
Incessant rains over the last few days have blurred the distinction between Kerala's backwaters and roads with sheets of water covering the landscape, but the state is facing shortage of potable water. Several fuel stations in the state are also reported to have run dry.
Train services between Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam have resumed and railways is also planning to conduct a trial run from Shornur to Ernakulam.
Train services from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi have been partially restored.
In the worst affected Chengannur in Alappuzha district, efforts are on to rescue some of those stranded in certain pockets, including Pandanad.
In a tragic fallout of the floods, unprecedented in about a century, a 19-year-old boy committed suicide in Kozhikode district after his class 12 certificate got destroyed in the deluge.
After water gushed into their house, Kailash and his parents from Karanthur had shifted to a relief camp a few days ago.
Kailash had got admission for a course at the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) and purchased a new set of clothes and set apart some money for higher studies, police said.
As the rain abated for a while, he returned home yesterday and was shocked to find his plus two certificate in shreds. Distraught, he ended his life by hanging himself from the ceiling of their house.