Despite a reduction in rainfall on Saturday, Kerala continues to face the worst flood in a century, with rivers in spate across the state, 80 dams opened, 324 lives lost since May 29 and more than two lakh people in relief camps.
On Friday, Chengannur MLA Saji Cherian broke down during a television show on Manorama News. “Please ask [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi to give us helicopters, 50,000 people will die otherwise,” he said. “We have been demanding for Navy assistance since the past four days and still haven’t received any help. Airlifting is the only solution. Please, please, please.”
This sense of helplessness is shared by other legislators and parliamentarians in Kerala. Scroll.in spoke to some of them on Saturday about the situation in their areas and what relief is needed.
Chalakudy: More helicopters, better medical care are needed
Chakakudy in Thrissur district in central Kerala is one of the worst-affected areas in the state. The Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Chalakudy, Innocent (who uses only one name) told Scroll.in that despite the massive relief efforts by both the Kerala government and the armed forces, the area is facing a critical situation after the Chalakudy river, the fifth largest in Kerala, breached its banks on Friday. “Flood waters have entered hospitals as well,” he said over the phone.
The biggest hurdle to the rescue is the massive flow of water with strong currents that are hampering boat movements. Innocent said the area required at least 20 helicopters to evacuate people stranded in the water. On Friday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said more helicopters would be diverted to the area to expedite the rescue efforts.
According to the MP, while thousands of people have been rescued from the flood waters over the last two days, medical care is turning out to be a challenge. In particular, elderly residents are facing the brunt. “There are a lot of people who have kidney ailments and need dialysis,” he said. “The government camps and hospitals are functioning to full capacity. But the need is massive.”
Apart from dialysis machines, Innocent added there are many cancer patients who need care. “The medical camps are brimming with people,” he said.
Palakkad: Roads and bridges have collapsed
Palakkad, neighbouring Thrissur, lies on the border with Tamil Nadu. Lok Sabha member MB Rajesh said the situation here was better on Saturday.
“Water levels have come down drastically and the dams are not releasing any more water,” he said. “More than 2,000 people have been evacuated from waterlogged houses and have been sheltered in various places in Palakkad town.” Altogether, more than 10,000 people are now housed in around 90 relief camps in the district.
Rajesh said some parts of Palakkad have been completely isolated because of the collapse of roads and bridges. “Between Pattambi and Thrithala, a bridge across the Bharatapura river has been damaged,” he said. “Thrithala has been cut off from the rest of Palakkad.”
Nelliyampathy, which is a hilly region in Palakkad, has also been cut off from other parts of the district. “There is only one road and that has suffered mass damage,” he said. “So now we are using BEML trucks used by Indian army to send essential supplies through a forest route.”
The MP said relief supplies were being mobilised from multiple sources including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. “I think we have enough stocks of essentials at the relief camps. Now if anybody would like to help they should contribute to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.”
Ernakulum: More rubber boats needed for rescue
Ernakulam is one of the most populated districts of Kerala. Kochi city is part of the district. The floods here have been severe.
On Saturday, Lok Sabha member KV Thomas from Ernakulum said rains continued to lash the area and flood waters were not receding. “There is still flooding,” he said. “Because of the high tide, water is not draining out.”
Helicopter operations to rescue stranded people has been slow because of bad weather. Boats were being pressed into service but often without much success. “So far, the boats we have been using are the fibre boats that fishermen use,” Thomas said. “These fishermen are very experienced but they are not able to navigate the shallow flood waters in the city. You have to get into nooks and corners. So we need more of the rubber boats of the kind the NDRF [National Disaster Response Force] uses.”
Alappuzha: Call for help from the army
The coastal district of Alappuzha lie south of Kochi. Lok Sabha member KC Venugopal said the situation here continued to be “very bad” with water levels still rising. “Thousands of people are stranded in Kuttanad and Chengannur,” he said.
He pleaded for more support from the Centre. “Our people – the police and district administration – are working very well but there is a limit to what they can do,” Venugopal said. “The entire operation should be taken over by the army. This should be declared a national disaster. We need more money from the Centre and we need more coordination.”
Anger at Central government’s slow response
Rajya Sabha member Jose K Mani strongly criticised the Centre for failing to react with the seriousness the situation deserved. “In Kuttanad area, thousands are stranded on top of buildings,” he said. “Only choppers could rescue them. But the state has not been given enough helicopters.”
Mani said while medical relief was crucial, people have to be rescued first. “We need a big section of the Navy pressed into service in Kerala if we are to avoid further deaths,” he said. “The helicopter rescue videos you are seeing on social media are operations that are far and few. The scale of destruction and human calamity cannot be described in words.”