By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: These are not frightening frames from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. These are shocking sights of a real-life tragedy unfolding its horrors. And it has been the lot of God’s Own Country to witness it.
Kerala is no stranger to rain havoc and the resultant flood fury. But the ordeal by water the state is undergoing at present has no parallels. The solitary exception, perhaps, is the rain of misery which battered the state 90 years ago.
To say that fear and tension stalk the state is perhaps an understatement. The people of Kerala are petrified by the ferocity of the rain-triggered floods ravaging the state. What is adding to their fears is that there are no signs of the rain fury abating. It has been raining death and destruction for over a fortnight.
The most redeeming feature of an otherwise grim situation is the unity shown by various political parties in this hour of grave crisis. The usual blame game which attended natural disasters in the past is refreshingly absent this time. It was a gratifying sight to see the Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala accompanying Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during the visit to the state by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was visibly shocked by the enormity of the unfolding disaster.
Equally heartening is the Centre-State synergy on show. The Centre has already sanctioned an amount of Rs 100 crore and promised to grant more funds in future. Another Central team is scheduled to visit the state to assess the enormous damage. Conservative estimates by the state government put the damage at a staggering Rs 8,038 crore!
The hour of unprecedented tragedy has brought out the best in the people not only in the state but also outside. Contributions are pouring in from all quarters to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. In a heart-warming display of compassion and sympathy, Tamil film world is going out of the way to reach out to the hapless victims of the flood-hit. Superstar Vijay leads the list with a generous contribution of Rs 15 crore. Malayali NRI businessmen M A Yusuf Ali and Ravi Pillai have forked out Rs 5 crore each.
In a prompt response to the SOS from Kerala, the defence forces have slipped into relief mode. Army, Air Force and Navy personnel – eight columns of army in particular – have been deployed in different parts of the state to deal with the rain-related disasters.
The Indian Army’s Kerala-Karnataka sub-area, with its headquarters in Bengaluru, is supervising the operations in Kerala entitled “Operation Sahyog”. The Indian Ai Force, too, has deployed helicopters for search-and-rescue operations.
Likewise, the Navy has pressed into service its boats and helicopters to help the people stranded in various parts of the state. The Navy is doing a commendable job in reaching out to the stranded in the hardest-hit districts like Idukki, Pathanamthitta, Wayanad and Malapppuram. Already over 140 stranded people have been brought to safety by the Navy personnel. No word of praise is too high for the magnificent manner in which the defence forces are handling the grim situation caused by the deluge of death and destruction.
The statistics on death and destruction are mind-boggling. So far, 58 lives have been lost. Over 20,000 people in various districts have been rendered homeless. More than 38,000 people have been accommodated in relief camps opened across the state.
The populace by and large is satisfied with the arrangements made in these camps. But their biggest worry is the uncertainty looming large over their future when they return to their homesteads battered by the rains and flood waters.
True, the state government has plunged itself heart and soul into the daunting task of reaching out to the victims. Ministers themselves have been given the job of personally supervising relief operations in all the 14 districts of the state. How serious is the situation can be gauged from the fact that a red alert has been sounded in all the districts. (IPA Service)