Kerala should be treated on a different yardstick for extending flood relief assistance as its huge loss cannot be compared with damage in any other state at any point of time, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.
Giving a detailed account of the havoc caused by the devastating floods and landslides since early this month, he said the preliminary assessment of losses was around Rs 20,000 crore which was equal to the state’s annual Plan size for 2018-19.
The heavy rains and floods have claimed 231 lives in Kerala since August 8 and more than 10.40 lakh people are still in relief camps across the state.
In support of his stand that Kerala’s case was unique, he said the state was densely populated and the entire state had infrastructure facilities such as good roads, communication network and hospitals.
Hence, the loss suffered in the floods was huge in nature and was something which cannot be compared to the damage suffered by any other part of the country at any point of time, Vijayan said, urging that the state should be treated on a different yardstick for extending assistance.
His stress on the magnitude of the calamity and assistance comes at a time when there is a standoff over accepting foreign aid for the flood-ravaged state.
While the state government was keen on receiving foreign aid, including USD 100 million offered by the United Arab Emirates, the Centre has taken the stand that it cannot accept any assistance from overseas governments and cited an existing policy.
Pushing for foreign assistance, Vijayan had earlier said there was no blanket ban and India, by law, could accept financial aid voluntarily given by a foreign government in times of a severe calamity.
In his statement on Friday, the chief minister said: “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.”
Vijayan also mentioned about the immediate release of Rs 100 crore by the Centre and further interim aid of Rs 500 crore announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately after his aerial survey of flood-affected areas on August 19.
The Centre has already released Rs 600 crore to the state.
The chief minister said the state was facing the biggest calamity in 100 years and preliminary estimate of losses comes around Rs 20,000 crore.
It goes without saying that the actual losses 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 the state has chalked out for 2018-2019,” Vijayan said.
More than 26,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed and crops spread over 40,000 hectares lost, Vijayan said, adding, “We have lost more than two lakh poultry and at least 46,000 milch animals.”
The magnitude of the havoc truly gets reflected in the fact that a vast area of the state still remains submerged in flood waters, the chief minister said.
Floods have washed away several multi-storeyed buildings, shops, commercial establishments and even bridges, he said.
Telecommunication network and electricity lines have been damaged. The power sector suffered losses of around Rs 750 crore while damage to water supply infrastructure was close to Rs 900 crore, he said.
He also noted that more than 300 landslides have occurred, resulting in hills being razed in several places.
Major rivers such as Bharathapuzha, Periyar, Chalakkudy and Pamba have altered course in many places.
Several parts of the state had been cut off, and remained as isolated islands, inaccessible by road or water transport, for days together.
People of the state came together and stood behind the government in evacuating the people stranded in flood waters and rehabilitating them in relief camps, the chief minister said.
Giving details of the rescue operations held with the active cooperation of the national disaster response force, defence forces, Coast Guard, police and others, Vijayan said it was for the first time that “such a massive rescue operation of this magnitude” was conducted anywhere in the country.
On post-flood health concerns, he said the health authorities were taking every precaution to ensure the wellbeing of the people and to ensure that there was no epidemic breakout.