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Centre declares Kerala floods a ‘calamity of severe nature’

Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi: The Union government declared the devastating floods in Kerala a “calamity of severe nature”, paving the way for higher Central monetary help, as the state braced for the gigantic task of reconstruction and rehabilitation of lakhs of people rendered homeless.
The death toll in the current spell of monsoon fury that began on August 8 has risen to 223, officials said. “Keeping in view the intensity and magnitude of the floods and landslides in Kerala, this is a calamity of a severe nature for all practical purposes,” a home ministry official said in New Delhi.
This categorisation will enable the state get greater monetary and other assistance from the Centre.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram, “Over 10.78 lakh displaced people, including 2.12 lakh women and one lakh children below 12 years of age, have been sheltered in 3,200 relief camps. Today, 602 persons were rescued from various places as the rains receded.”
Mr Vijayan said there has been demands from various quarters to declare the floods as a national calamity.
“Our demand is also the same. But the Centre is pointing out certain technical difficulties to make such an announcement. What we need now is to evaluate the total loss and get an equivalent assistance from the Centre,” he said.
“As per preliminary estimates, the state has so far suffered a loss of nearly Rs 20,000 crore. The Union government has so far rendered all help to the state. Kerala received Rs 210 crore towards the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund and a promise of Rs 160 crore,” he said.
With flood water level receding in many places, people have started returning to their homes and begun cleaning operations. The state government has also decided to distribute cleaning kits to them, Mr Vijayan said.
Commercial flight operations from the naval airport at Kochi commenced on Monday with the first Air India flight from Bengaluru arriving this morning. Small aircraft are being operated from the naval airport.
Relief material, including provisions, water and fuel have started arriving at the Kochi port from different parts of the country, official sources said.