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Kerala floods leave at least 400 dead, as UAE offers 700 crores for relief

Throughout the past several weeks, the Indian state of Kerala has been disturbed by heavy rain and immense flooding leaving at least 400 people dead.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced 500 crore rupees to the state for relief, but controversy has arisen over an offer from the United Arab Emirates of 700 crores for relief. The UAE, which has over 2 million Indian migrants with many from Kerala, made the offer last week, with Mr Modi, thanking the state for the “gracious offer".

However, a senior Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officer told NDTV, "as of now the centre is not accepting financial help from any foreign country, so the same applies to the offer made by UAE."

Meanwhile, The Communist Party of India, the second biggest constituent of the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala, said that the Indian central government announcement of Rs 500 crore to was "too little" and Mr Modi could have been "more generous".

CPI General Secretary Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy said, "We are not satisfied. We think it's too little, considering the scale of destruction in Kerala…This (Rs 500 crore) will not be enough".

Bordering Karnataka to the north and Tamil Nadu to the east, flooding in Kerala began in the latter half of July, with Kerala Chief Minister Pinaraji Vijayan deeming it one of the worst of such disasters in the state’s history. In addition to the hundreds dead, thousands of others have been injured.

CM Vijayan also issued a statement, vowing to "save even the last person stranded."

The Indian Army, Indian Navy, Kerala Fire and Rescue Services, and Kerala Police were all immediately deployed, helping rescue tens of thousands of individuals trapped in buildings or heavily flooded precincts across 14 districts placed on high alert by the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority. Supranational humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross have also been operating in the state alongside public services.

The most significant flooding and damage took place in the northern zones of Kerala, as Wayanad, Malappuram, and Kozhikode have seen an unprecedented death count and instigated perilous landslides, killing many more. Of Kerala’s 42 total dams, 35 were opened in an effort to control the flooding — this is the first time in the state’s history that such action has been taken. Various Indian media outlets have indicated that upwards of 800,000 Keralites are currently seeking refuge in more than 4,000 flood relief camps established across the state, with organisations and individuals, both within and outside of India, sending care packages of blankets, food, tea and biscuits.

The vast majority of schools, both private and public, have been closed indefinitely. Airports throughout the state have also been shut down, with the exception of Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, located in southern Kerala, which is currently serving as a temporary hub for domestic airlines such as Vistara, which is offering free flights to relief aid workers from various aid organizations. The closing of the Kochi International Airport, the fourth busiest international airport in the country, has also resulted in the abrupt cancellation of several regularly-scheduled chartered flights, operated by Emirates, Qatar and Etihad, among others. The Indian Railways has ceased operations in the area, although the city metro in Kochi is operating free of charge. Government officials have discouraged tourists from visiting the state at present and travel companies have terminated their pilgrimage packages to Sabarimala until the situation is deemed safe.

Due to wind patterns, heavy rain and flooding has also been reported in several districts in western and southern Tamil Nadu. The flooding of the Mullaiperiyaar River dam has also worsened the situation, as Tamil Nadu is currently keeping a watch on 11 districts.

A website has been set up by the government to process donations and convey updates and emergency contact information: See here.

Also see more from NDTV here, India Today here, PTI here and the Guardian here.