Unprecedented downpour and floods in Kerala have resulted in heavy loss of life, immeasurable misery and devastation.
As is known to all, the calamity with its hitherto unheard of dimensions plunged our State and its people into a pitiable plight. The magnitude of the havoc truly gets reflected in the fact that a vast area of the State still remains submerged in flood waters.
As of now, 372 lives have been lost since the onset of the monsoon. Over 26,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. Crops spread over 40,000 hectares have been lost. We have lost more than 2 lakh poultry and at least 46,000 milch animals. Floods have washed away many multi-storied buildings, shops and commercial establishments. Several roads in the State have been severely damaged, with some roads being completely washed away by the flood waters. Even bridges have collapsed. Telephone network and electricity lines have been damaged. The power sector has suffered losses of around ₹750 crore and the water sector’s losses are close to ₹900 crore. The preliminary assessment of losses comes around ₹20,000 crore.
It goes without saying that the actuals will steadily go up once the water recedes and the final assessment is made. To put it in a nutshell, the size of the loss caused by the calamity is equal to the size of the annual plan that the State has chalked out for 2018-19.
I need not tell you that Kerala on its own will not be in a position to mobilise the required resources to bridge the gap, reclaim and rebuild. Since the State is densely populated with an equally complex infrastructure network, the loss suffered by the State is huge in nature and is something which cannot be compared to the damage suffered by any other part of the country at any point of time. Against this backdrop one can easily come to the conclusion that Kerala requires a different yardstick.
Torrential rains have forced temporary closure of the Kochi airport and train services had to be put on hold. More than 300 landslides have occurred, resulting in hills being razed in several places. Our major rivers such as the Bharathapuzha, Periyar, Chalakkudy and Pamba have altered course at several places. Several parts of the State had been cut off, and remained as stranded islands, inaccessible by road or water transport, for days together. The actual figures of total losses are likely to be much higher, considering the fact that several places are still under water.
Despite such adverse situations, the people of Kerala came together behind the Government of Kerala which ensured that people are evacuated and rehabilitated properly in relief camps. There are over four thousand relief camps which house nearly 14 lakh people, most of whom have been brought to safety as part of the rescue operation which is almost over. Though it is coming to a close, teams are still vigilant against any possible eventualities.
The massive rescue operation was coordinated by the State, together with the Central government. Our own police and fire force personnel were deployed across the affected areas. The Army, Navy, Coast Guard and NDRF also did a great job in the rescue operations in coordination with the State authorities. Elected representatives, volunteers and fishers also played an active part in the rescue effort. Ministers and District Collectors are coordinating the relief efforts at the district level. Youth of the State deserves a special mention for their selfless and dedicated service which set a high bar for possible disaster management situations in the times to come. Our fisherfolk deserve accolades for the courageous and timely intervention that rescued a lot many people. A wide range of people, right from the fisherfolk to the well trained defence commandos, did exemplary work in saving the lives of those who were stranded in islands of isolation.
During the operations, we had the service of 59 NDRF teams along with their 207 boats, 23 Army columns with their 104 specialised crafts, 94 rescue teams from Navy supported by medical team, nine helicopters, two fixed wing aircrafts and 94 boats, 36 teams from the Coast Guard with their 49 boats, two helicopters, 23 fixed wing helicopters, two fixed wing aircraft and the Air Force with its 27 hired boats, 22 helicopters and 23 fixed wing aircraft, the Border Security Force with one company of its personnel, CRPF with its 10 teams of personnel and two companies of BSF along with one water vehicle team. It was for the first time that such a massive rescue operation of this magnitude was conducted anywhere in India.
Synergy between the State forces, local authorities, elected representatives, local people and the Central teams was of a unique blend. What ensured its success was meticulous planning, rigorous assessment of the ground realities, efficient use of technology, resolve of the people and flawless coordination on the part of the State. Since August 9, the CMO, Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) and the State Control Cell have been working round-the-clock, monitoring the situation and coordinating various streams of rescue efforts.
We have to adopt a two-pronged strategy comprising, on the one hand, reclamation of the submerged lands and, on the other, restoration of whatever infrastructure facilities we had there. No less important is the task of bringing life back to normality in the State. Transcending all barriers, the people of Kerala are joining hands in this effort. We will have to run the camps at least for three or four weeks. By this time we have to clean the houses affected by the flood. Local authorities have been directed to help the families in the cleaning operations. Health authorities are taking every precaution to ensure the well being of the people there and to see that there will not be any epidemic breakout. We are making use of all public sector institutions such as TCCL, KSDP, etc., for creating a healthy environment in the affected areas.
It is heartening to note that noble minds from all over the world are coming to help us at this point of agony. Considering the magnitude of the devastation that has happened in Kerala, the Centre has released ₹100 crore for immediate relief. The Prime Minister, immediately after his aerial survey, announced that ₹500 crore will be made available to the State in addition to the amount announced earlier. It is with a thankful heart that we take note of the fact that foreign countries ranging from the UAE to Qatar have come forward with their promise of assistance.
Kerala is facing its biggest calamity in 100 years. I know pretty well that all who have a concern towards our State, located at the southern-most tip of our land, will come in a big way to our aid. Help from all around the world will go a long way in our efforts to overcome this calamity.
I take this opportunity to express the sincere gratitude of the people of Kerala to all who have been kind enough to stand by us during these testing times.
Chief Minister, Kerala