Flood-hit Kerala calls off official Onam celebration

Flood-hit Kerala calls off official Onam celebration

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan (L) along with opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala (2L) visit relief camp in Chengamanadu Government Higher Secondary School (HSS) in Ernakulam district. AFP photo.

The Kerala Government on Tuesday decided to cancel the official Onam celebrations scheduled to kick off later in the month in view of massive flooding, landslips and rain-related damages in the state.

Briefing reporters here after a Cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said funds earmarked under various government departments for the state-organised celebrations would be used in ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts. Thiruvonam, the state’s biggest festival, falls on August 25 this year. The week-long official Onam celebration is a popular event in Kerala’s tourism calendar.

The Cabinet decided to include 251 more villages in the list of flood-hit regions, taking the number of affected villages to 444. The updated death toll in rain-related incidents in the state since August 8 stood at 38 on Tuesday.

The Chief Minister said the state suffered losses of Rs 8,316 crore. The government has sought from the Centre immediate relief of Rs 1,220 crore based on a preliminary assessment of damages. “A comprehensive assessment can be made only after the waters recede. The government has requested the Centre to send a team of officials to the state again to take stock of the situation,” Vijayan said.

The Chief Minister lauded “unprecedented” rescue operations by personnel of the National Disaster Response Force, the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Revenue Department officials, Fire and Rescue Services and the police. Appreciating the Centre’s interventions in extending assistance to the flood-ravaged state, Vijayan requested government and public sector employees to contribute two days’ salaries to the disaster relief fund. Help has continued to pour in from other state governments, non-resident Keralites, corporate companies and actors.

A Cabinet sub-committee has been constituted to monitor rehabilitation measures and ensure time-bound disbursal of compensation to people affected by the floods and landslides.