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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

UAE leaders step in to help flood-stricken Kerala

Emirates Red Crescent to head relief efforts after 324 people die in flash floods across Indian state 

UAE leaders have stepped in to help people affected by the flash floods in the Indian state of Kerala.

President Sheikh Khalifa has formed an emergency committee to organise relief assistance. It will be chaired by the Emirates Red Crescent and include representatives from the UAE's humanitarian organisations. The committee will also seek the help of the Indians in the UAE.

Indian leaders have said the flooding in Kerala is the worst there has been in a century.

At least 324 people have died and more than 200,000 are homeless, while the military has increase rescue and relief efforts.

UAE leaders have also extended their condolences to the Indian people and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said the UAE and the Indian community would unite to help those affected.

"The people of Kerala have always been and are still part of our success story in the UAE. We have a special responsibility to help and support those affected," he wrote on Twitter.

"Ahead of Eid Al Adha, do not forget to extend a helping hand to our brothers in India."

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan thanked Sheikh Mohammed on Saturday, calling him a "true friend of Kerala" and saying the "people of Kerala will not forget this kind gesture shown in our time of need".

Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, called Mr Vijayan to offer condolences on behalf of the UAE's leaders and to discuss relief requirements. Meanwhile, charities and companies across the country began mobilising relief packages to be delivered to Kerala through the newly-formed committee.

About three million Indians call the UAE home and many of these come from Kerala.

The floods during India's monsoon season have triggered landslides and sent torrents sweeping through villages amid warnings of worse weather to come.

Hundreds of troops and fishermen are staging rescue attempts with helicopters and boats across the southern state, which draws international tourists to its tropical beaches.

Kerala has been battered by record monsoon rainfall this year and is "facing the worst floods in 100 years", Mr Vijayan said.

With thousands trapped, power and communication lines down, authorities warned of more trouble ahead.

"We are deploying more boats and the army to ramp up rescue operations," senior state government official PH Kurian told AFP.

Crews in more than 30 military helicopters and 320 boats are attempting rescues across Kerala.

Authorities said thousands of people have been taken to safety so far but 6,000 more are still waiting for rescue.

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Read more:

More than 160,000 residents of south Indian state seek shelter at relief camps

Kerala floods crisis 'extremely grave' - in pictures

Flights from UAE to flood-hit Kerala are cancelled

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Helicopters have also been dropping emergency food and water supplies, while trains carrying drinking water have been sent to Kerala.

According to India's weather bureau, since the beginning of June more than 321 centimetres of rain has fallen on the hilly central Kerala district of Idukki, which is now almost cut off from the rest of the state.

With no end to the deluge in sight, people all over the state of 33 million have made appeals on social media for help, saying they cannot make contact with rescue services.

"My family and neighbouring families are in trouble," wrote Ajo Varghese, a resident of the coastal city of Alappuzha, in a Facebook post that quickly went viral.

"No water and food. Not able to communicate from afternoon. Mobile phones are not reachable... Please help," he added.

Other messages have been sent from people trapped inside temples and hospitals as well as their homes.

The Kerala government has said it faces an "extremely grave" crisis and Mr Vijayan warned of a further rainfall over the weekend. Strong winds have also been predicted for Saturday and Sunday.

The gates of dozens of dams and reservoirs across the state have been opened as water levels reach danger levels, inundating many other villages.

Mr Modi arrived in the state on Friday night, Mr Vijayan's office tweeted, with media reports saying the premier would undertake an aerial survey of the worst affected areas on Saturday.

North and central Kerala have been worst-hit by the floods, with the international airport in the main city of Kochi shut until at least August 26.

At least 310,000 of the displaced are taking shelter in more than 2,000 relief camps. On top of tourist cancellations, Kerala's rubber industry has been hit by the floods.

The government says 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged, along with thousands of homes.

Reports said electricity supplies to more than half the state have been cut. The state power company said that one million people were affected.

The home ministry announced separately that 868 people have been reported dead in seven Indian states including Kerala since the start of the monsoon in June.

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