Volunteers use umbrellas to protect from rain as they cross Pampa river to reach to flood-affected areas to clean houses and public places following floods in Kuttanad in Alappuzha district in the southern state of Kerala, India Image Credit: Reuters

Thiruvananthapuram: Around 70,000 people have volunteered in a massive clean-up drive in Kuttanad, known as the Kerala's rice bowl, to remove the slit and debris dumped by flood, as rehabilitation work continued in other affected areas of the state.  

The Kuttanad region, which is below the sea level, has several areas still inundated, a week after the torrential rains that triggered the devastating deluge across the state stopped and water receded in most other parts.

State Finance Minister Thomas Isaac and PWD Minister G Sudhakaran launched the drive in which nearly 70,000 volunteers will clean around one lakh buildings in Kainakary, Nedumudi and other areas of Kuttanad in Alapuzha district.

At least 1,000 engineers, IT volunteers and snake catchers along with cleaning supplies have also joined the drive.



The volunteers reached Kuttanad in boats and buses and have fanned out across 16 panchayats to clear around one lakh buildings, including houses, public places and places of worship, of the slush and debris, Sudhakaran told reporters.

Asserting that there was an overwhelming response from the people, with many even from far off districts joining in the drive, he said the initial plan was to complete the clean-up by August 30.

However, since a large number of houses were still waterlogged, it would take more time, the minister said.

Isaac said they were overwhelmed by the response as people from as far as northern Kannur district had come to help people clean their homes.

Meanwhile, cleaning operations across the flood-hit areas are progressing fast and in many places people have started returning home.

Fifty-two-year-old Rema said she along with her family returned home last night, 11 days after they fled as their house at Aluva in Kochi submerged in flood water.

She said a team of volunteers along with the family members cleaned their house.

"Some more cleaning up work has to be undertaken," Rema said.

As schools are reopening tomorrow after Onam vacation, focus will also be on cleaning up of the campuses. People staying in schools which have been converted into relief camps, would be shifted to auditoriums and halls.

According to the directions issued by Education Minister C Raveendranath, children attending classes in flood-affected areas would be taken special care.

They would be provided counselling and programmes would be held to cheer them up, officials said.

According to preliminary estimate, the state has so far suffered a loss of Rs 20,000 crore in the devastation caused by the deluge under the deadly second spell of monsoon since August 8. A total of 3.42 lakh people are in 1,093 relief camps.

As many 474 people died in rain-related incidents since May 29 when the monsoon set in over the state.

With rehabilitation measures on, the state government has said an immediate relief of Rs 10,000 would be disbursed to the victims soon. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has issued necessary instructions in this regard to district collectors.

The Kochi international airport which stopped its operations since August 14 following flooding is expected to commence services from tomorrow.

As an interim measure, civil aircraft operations were facilitated from the Naval airport in Kochi.

Road traffic is also slowly becoming normal in affected areas. In high range Idukki district, one of the worst hit by monsson fury, many damaged roads are yet to be repaired and bus services have started in many places sparsely.

Ernakulam District Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla said rehabilitation of thousands of people who lost their livelihood and were rendered homeless in badly-hit Ernakulam district was going to be a "long-drawn" affair.

Close to 700 houses were fully damaged and nearly 20,000 partially in the flood fury in the district, the commercial capital of Kerala. Nearly two lakhs houses were impacted by the floods in the district.

"Rehabilitation process is going to be long drawn. It may be a six months or a year. Construction of these houses and rebuilding of the public infrastructure is going to take time. Livelihood may take even longer," he told PTI.

Around 75,000 people were in 107 camps as of yesterday, he said adding a massive clean-up drive had been initiated.