Kerala floods: Relief teams rescue 22,000 as rains ease

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
This baby boy was rescued with his family from a home in Chengannur on Monday

About 22,000 people were rescued from the flood-hit Indian state of Kerala on Sunday, officials say, after monsoon rains finally eased.

Military teams as well as disaster response forces and local fishermen reached some of the worst-hit areas.

Helicopters also brought much-needed supplies to communities cut off by two weeks of incessant rain.

More than 370 people have been killed, most of them in landslides, since the monsoon started in June.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the number of people taking refuge in the 5,645 relief camps now stood at 725,000.

But he vowed on Sunday "to save even the last person stranded".

Meanwhile, the head of the state's disaster management team, Anil Vasudevan, said he was preparing to deal with a possible outbreak of waterborne and airborne diseases in relief camps.

He said authorities had already isolated three people with chickenpox in a camp in Aluva, about 250km (155 miles) from state capital Thiruvananthapuram.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
More than 700,000 people, including these in Kochi, are being housed in relief camps

The relief commissioner of Kerala, PH Kurian, told the BBC on Monday that authorities had rescued more than 200,000 people and hoped to reach the majority of those still stranded by the end of the day. He said it could be a year before some people could return to their homes.

Rescue officials said efforts on Sunday had been concentrated on the town of Chengannur, where about 5,000 people were reported to be trapped, and in the Alapuzha and Ernakulam districts.

In Chengannur, local politician Saji Cherian earlier broke down in tears on TV describing the crisis there.

"Please give us a helicopter. I am begging you. Please help me, people in my place will die. There is no other solution, people have to be airlifted," he said.

Media caption,
Soldiers winch small children to safety in Kerala's floods (Footage credit: Indian Air Force)

Survivors at evacuation centres have described spending days without food or water.

As the rain eased, some evacuated residents returned to see what was left of their homes.

"Big snakes are hiding in our home. I don't know how I can take my children back. They had such fond memories of our house but now they are scared," Joseph, 40, told BBC Tamil's Pramila Krishnan.

Some people said they would stay in relief camps for a few more days because they don't have enough money to repair their homes or replace what they have lost.

"My house is full of mud and almost everything I own is now damaged," Chandra, a young woman, told BBC Tamil.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the area on Saturday, and promised an immediate grant of 5bn Indian rupees (£55m; $71m).

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