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Nearly a million in camps escape deadly Kerala flooding

Indian passengers travel in a truck to a safer place as floodwaters ravage National Highway 47 in Ernakulam district of Kochi in the Indian state of Kerala on Aug. 17. (Photo by AFP)
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Mumbai, Aug. 20. Some 370 people have been killed by flash floods in the southern Indian state.  Hundreds of people are dead and nearly a million are in temporary relief camps in the southern Indian state of Kerala after overflowing rivers ploughed through residential areas.
Flash floods have killed some 370 people and sent about 846,000 people into relief camps following week-long rains that that filled up more than 30 dams. The large rainfall forced authorities to open dam sluices which caused flooding of more than 40 coastal rivers.

Some estimate that at least 30 percent of 30 million people in the state are affected by flooding.

The death toll is likely to increase as there is no information about thousands of people stranded in the hilly districts of the Idukki and Wayanad, said Father George Vettikattil, who directs the Kerala Social Service Forum that oversees the Catholic Church's rescue and relief operations.

Father Jose Plachickal, the vicar general of Indukki district, said several villages remain cut off due to landslides.

Father Thomas Punamadathil, who works with the social service wing of Bathery Diocese in Wayanad district, said rescue and relief teams are unable to reach many places, especially those where tribal people live.
''Some relief campus are now isolated after roads were blocked by landslides,'' Father Punamadathil told on Aug. 20, adding that it was difficult to deliver food and water to those in the camps.

India's top trade association has estimated the disaster will cost the state US$2.8 billion, much of it being lost in the agricultural sector and in international trade.
In flood-affected areas, tribal people who depend on farming and livestock for survival have been hit hard, said Father Punamadathil.
''They lost everything virtually in an instant,'' he said. ''Their bamboo and mud houses were totally destroyed and their livestock was washed away. Most of them now have nothing but the cloth on their body.''

Thousands of Catholic volunteers have joined early clean-up efforts to protect communities from the risk of diseases and other health issues, he said.
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