It has been a merciless monsoon for Kerala. The torrential rain over the last two weeks took nearly 200 lives, rendered lakhs homeless and sleepless. The floods have caused colossal damage to the picturesque coastal state which depends massively on tourism. The infrastructure has suffered multiple fractures.
The good news is that the water levels are coming down and rescue operations are almost over. The bad news is that the nightmare is far from over. Return to battered homes and the thought of starting afresh amid devastation can scare even the stronghearted. The overall loss is pegged at over Rs 20,000 crore. To rebuild and rehabilitate are going to the biggest challenges for the government.
But Kerala isn't losing hope. While the state was sinking, the calamity brought the world together. Help poured in from every corner. Just today, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has offered to pool in Rs 700 crore to rebuild the state, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said. A "new Kerala" has to be built, he added.
"The Kerala diaspora has been a huge source of help for us. Since they have done tremendous service in the Middle East, it has helped build good relations with the governments there. Today morning, the UAE rulers informed our Prime Minister about their contribution for Kerala and this was conveyed to me by MA Yusuf Ali (who owns Lulu Supermarkets)," Mr Vijayan said.
The UAE, however, is yet to formally communicate their intent to the Indian government, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
"The centre will decide after we have received a formal communication by the UAE government," said an official at the ministry.
CM Pinarayi Vijayan informed that the United Arab Emirates will provide Kerala an assistance of ₹700 Crore. Kerala has a special relationship with UAE, which is a home away from home for Malayalees. We express our gratitude to UAE for their support. #KeralaFloodReliefpic.twitter.com/yfwbt9iEkd- CMO Kerala (@CMOKerala) August 21, 2018
The UAE has been a preferred choice for Keralites looking to start lives away from home. The UAE government has also formed a national emergency committee to help flood victims.
The centre has declared Kerala floods as a "calamity of severe nature". Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced an immediate relief of Rs 100 crore on August 12. About Rs 80 crore had also been announced by Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju.
As the situation continued to worsen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to the submerged state on Saturday and released Rs 500 crore after an aerial survey.
The state had sought an immediate assistance of Rs 2,000 crore.
"The situation has improved dramatically," Union Minister KJ Alphons told NDTV today.
"Water has gone down everywhere and the sun has come out. Rescue operations are almost over, now comes the scary part to rehabilitate. Over a million people are still in relief camps, which are doing very, very well. The state government is doing an excellent job. The central forces have done an amazing work. The fishermen are the real heroes. They brought 600 boats and saved hundreds," Mr Alphons added.
The people of Kerala are the ultimate heroes, he said. "They are working tirelessly and helping immensely in relief operations. But we need a lot of assistance to rebuild the state. Thousands of houses have collapsed and roads are gone. We need electricians, carpenters and plumbers to rush to Kerala. We need people with technical skills," he said.
After things begin to settle, Mr Alphons said, the state government will make an assessment of losses, a memorandum will be submitted, a central team will look at it and all possible assistance will be provided to put life back on track. He also suggested that those who want to help, should send money to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund or through credible channels.
Actors, Supreme Court judges, corporates, politicians, students and organisations have already started contributing, but the state will need much more and take much longer to recover.
(Kerala has to rebuild itself after the worst floods in over a century. Hundreds have died and lakhs are homeless. Here is how you can help.)
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