KOCHI: The death toll from the worst flooding to hit India’s Kerala state in a century has jumped to 357, authorities said Sunday, with losses to infrastructure pegged at some $3 billion.
The idyllic tourist hotspot has been badgered by torrential monsoon rains since the end of May, triggering landslides and flash floods that have swept away entire villages.
“Since May 29, when the monsoon starts in Kerala, a total of 357 people have lost their lives until now,” a statement from the state’s information officer said, with 33 losing their lives over the last 24 hours.
Some 353,000 people have taken shelter in 3,026 relief camps as thousands of army, navy and air force troops fan out to help those still stranded.
Roads and 134 bridges have suffered damage, isolating remote areas in the hilly districts of the state which are worst affected.
Panic-stricken people have been making appeals on social media for help, saying they cannot get through to rescue services.
“According to preliminary estimates Kerala’s losses due to the floods is 19,512 crore rupees ($2.9 bln). Actual losses can be estimated only after the water recedes,” the statement said.
The state chief minister has requested more funding as well as 20 more helicopters and 600 motorised boats in order to step up the rescue efforts.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted a brief air inspection tour of the state on Saturday and announced an immediate grant of $75 million.
Flights, train and metro services have been suspended in the flood-ravaged state. Hundreds of villages have been inundated, with more than 10,000 kilometres of roads and thousands of homes destroyed or damaged by the floods.
Kerala, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is battered by the monsoon every year but this year’s damage is the worst in decades. Floods have also caused havoc in neighbouring Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh states.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Thursday on Twitter that he has ordered the Defence Ministry “to further step up the rescue and relief operations across the state. Praying for the safety and well-being of the people of Kerala.”