Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday expressed gratitude towards the armed forces in a ceremony in Thiruvananthapuram for their role in the recent flood relief and rescue operations in the state, ANI reported. The floods have killed at least 302 people since August 8, the Chief Minister’s Office said.

Vijayan, during a programme on Manorama News, requested Keralites to donate one month’s salary as aid for reconstruction work, ManoramaOnline reported. He said that people can also set aside three days’ salary every month for the next 10 months.

Vijayan said that the state government would undertake rebuilding efforts. “All those who have lost their homes should be provided new ones,” he said. “Damaged houses should be repaired. However, the government cannot carry out this task on its own. Banks will be approached for funds.”

The government will seek aid from national and international agencies, as well as consider loans for those affected by the floods, the chief minister said. However, he added that the state expects help from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who had personally examined the flood situation. Vijayan also said that schools in Kerala will be cleaned over the next three days, with a “special focus” on those which functioned as relief camps or were damaged in the floods.

Armed forces left the state on Sunday after 18 days of operations. “This was the highest intensity operation we have ever carried out in such a short span of time,” Air Marshal B Suresh was quoted as saying. However, the medical units of the Indian Air Force will continue their operations for some more days.

Earlier in the day, the Kerala chief minister reviewed relief efforts still under way in the state. The Chief Minister’s Office said 4,62,456 people were still there in 1,435 camps.

Puducherry CM asks Centre not to block foreign aid

Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy urged the Centre not to obstruct foreign aid to Kerala, PTI reported. The Centre had last week said that it could not accept foreign aid as part of an old policy, amid a purported offer by the United Arab Emirates of Rs 700 crore. The chief minister said the convention of countries offering aid to nations faced with natural calamities “has been in practice all along and this is only a mutual assistance for relief and rehabilitation work”.

Narayanasamy pointed out that the Indian government had provided aid to Nepal when the country was hit by a massive earthquake in 2015.

BJP MLA claims cow slaughter caused calamity

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Karnataka’s Vijayapura, Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, claimed that the disaster took place because people openly slaughtered cows in Kerala, PTI reported.

“In Kerala, people openly slaughter cows,” he told reporters in Vijayapura on Saturday. “What happened? Within a year, a situation like this arose. Whoever hurts Hindu religious beliefs will face such consequences.” Yatnal may have been referring to an incident from last year when Youth Congress workers killed a calf in public during a beef festival.

Yatnal, who is no stranger to controversy, had said last month that if the BJP came to power in Karnataka, he would have all “intellectuals” shot dead.