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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

More than a million people in India flood relief camps

UAE sends 41 tonnes of aid as death toll in Kerala reaches 410

People from flood-stricken villages take shelter at a relief camp at a college in Chengannur, Kerala. Getty Images 
People from flood-stricken villages take shelter at a relief camp at a college in Chengannur, Kerala. Getty Images 

More than one million people have packed relief camps to escape the monsoon floods that have killed 410 people in Kerala, officials said on Tuesday.

About 50,000 homes have been destroyed and people are flocking to the camps as the scale of the desolation is revealed by the receding waters.

A total of 1,028,000 people were now registered in about 3,200 camps across the south-western Indian state, a Kerala government spokesman said.

Six more bodies were found on Monday, taking the toll to more than 410 since the monsoon started in June.

At Chengannur, one of the worst-hit towns, more than 60 centimetres of water blocked roads as more rain fell on Tuesday.

Army teams said several thousand people in the town remained in homes inundated by 10 days of torrential downpours.

In response to the crisis, a plane loaded with aid was scheduled to leave Abu Dhabi at 10.30pm on Tuesday for Kerala.

The cargo charter flight was due to arrive at 4.30am on Wednesday in Calicut.

Universal Hospital in the UAE organised the flight with about 41 tonnes of aid and equipment in the hold. Authorities have promised to waive the Customs duties.

Once it arrives, the aid will be distributed to different affected districts by volunteers, led by Universal Hospital staff.

The Indian Ambassador to the UAE, Navdeep Suri, said on Monday that Kerala had enough supplies thanks to such generosity and that financial donations were the best way to help.

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Read more:

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Rescue teams in Chengannur on Tuesday reached the house of retired army officer K G Pillai, who said up to 2.4 metres of water had engulfed the home where his family had lived since 1952.

"In the past there has never been more than one foot of floods and people are not used to this," he told Agence-France Presse.

"Around 26 people moved into the first floor of our home [to take refuge]," he said.

Many roads and homes around Mr Pillai's house remained inaccessible.

A senior army officer involved in the rescue operation in Chengannur said authorities believed most of the people left in town did not want to leave and were instead seeking food and water.

"We received a distress call late yesterday to rescue a disabled child and will be going in today on boats to check if there are others who need assistance," he said.

Thousands of army, navy and air force personnel have fanned out across the state to help those stranded in remote and hilly areas.

Dozens of helicopters and even drones have been dropping food, medicine and water to cut-off villages.

Locals cross the flood water after taking a lift on the rescue truck in Chengannur, India. Getty Images 
Locals cross the flood water after taking a lift on the rescue truck in Chengannur, India. Getty Images 

Tens of thousands of people in Chengannur and surrounding towns and villages are relying on community kitchens for meals, after water from hilly districts in Kerala's north poured down into lowland regions.

"People have lost all or most of their belongings in the last few days," the officer said.

Shashi Tharoor, a deputy from Kerala and former UN official, estimated that 50,000 houses had been destroyed. He said he would seek possible UN assistance in relief efforts during a trip to Geneva this week.

Millions of dollars in donations have poured into the state from the rest of India and abroad since the extent of the devastation became known.

Supreme Court judges have donated $360 (Dh1,322) each while the British-based Sikh group Khalsa Aid International has set up its own relief camp in Kochi, Kerala's main city, to provide 3,000 meals a day.