55 lakh affected by floods: House

55 lakh affected by floods: House

About 55 lakh people from 981 villages were affected by floods and landslides in Kerala, a substantive motion adopted by Kerala Legislative Assembly on Thursday said.

The motion, adopted during a special session convened to discuss the way forward for the flood-ravaged state, said 483 people died in rain-related incidents since the onset of the southwest monsoon, on May 29.

The House sought from the Centre a favourable stand towards the state in accepting financial and technical assistance from other countries, international bodies and agencies including the World Bank. It also sought more financial aid from the Centre as the state prepares for a massive rehabilitation and rebuilding exercise. The Centre has, so far, released Rs 600 crore as aid.

The eight hours-plus session saw the CPM-led ruling coalition and the Congress-led opposition exchange fire over administrative handling of the floods, Kerala’s worst in nearly 100 years. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said though the state had prepared for potential monsoon-related damages, the impact of rainfall – three times more than what was forecast – was too big. Between August 9 and 15, Kerala received 352.2 mm rainfall, as against the expected 98.5 mm.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the disaster was largely caused by poor management of dams and quoted experts to back the allegation. The opposition demanded a judicial probe into circumstances that led to the flooding. Vijayan said Kerala’s efforts to rebuild and reconstruct had to address environmental concerns. “It’s important to decide on the model for rebuilding. This disaster has highlighted environment-related issues. We need to decide if rehabilitation is feasible in areas vulnerable to flooding and landslides,” he said.

Roads and bridges were damaged extensively and infrastructure in remote areas badly hit. Procurement of raw materials to reconstruct this infrastructure will be a major challenge. Vijayan said losses were likely to exceed the size of Kerala’s annual plan outlay. CPM veteran and former chief minister V S Achuthanandan called for a re-look at the idea of development against the backdrop of the disaster and sought a renewed crackdown on encroachments.