Kerala flood losses $2 billion, toll touches 164
Dubai - Thousands of homes, roads and bridges have been washed away.
The flood of despair across the Indian state of Kerala eased on Friday with the rains letting up and the sun making an appearance in the morning to lift spirits. The state's finance minister, in an interview to KT, pegged the losses at a whopping $2 billion.
Thousands of homes, roads and bridges have been washed away in nature's fury, and the death toll from the latest spell has risen to 164. Officials said 300,000 people are now in camps, and Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said lives and infrastructure have to be built from scratch.
"We have to rebuild the state completely," was how Isaac put it. He acknowledges that this is no easy task but is confident that expat Indians will join efforts to put Kerala back on its feet again.
Isaac was leading rescue operations in Kainagiri area of Alappuzha district when KT caught up with him by phone. He said the situation is still grave and rescue operations are in full swing.
"These are the worst floods we have witnessed since 1924. We were not prepared for such vast amounts of rainfall and the floods that followed. But we managed to limit the damage and have saved thousands of lives with good coordination between agencies."
He said challenges abound for the state administration which is taking it one step at a time. "The priority is rescue, and we need help from every corner. Then come relief operations, rehabilitation of the affected people and rebuilding of infrastructure that has been destroyed," the minister said. Organisations or individuals could adopt villages for rehabilitation once the immediate crisis is over, the minister said.
Isaac said the government would ensure families of expat Keralites affected by the floods are safe.
When asked how Kerala expats in the UAE could help the state return to normal, the minister said they could contribute through the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
"Once the water level recedes, we need to rebuild the state completely. The loss is huge and we need to support the affected people. For those who want to support it, the CM's fund is the best option," the finance minister added.
"If you want to donate relief materials, please send clothes and personal hygiene materials. Please avoid perishable items while sending from abroad," Isaac noted.