August 19, 2018 / 5:45 AM / 2 months ago

CORRECTED-Rain abates in India's flood-hit Kerala, fears of disease in camps

(Corrects first paragraph to say 200,000 people, not two million)

By Jose Devasia

KOCHI, India, Aug 19 (Reuters) - A deluge in India’s flood-stricken southwestern state of Kerala finally let up on Sunday, giving some respite for thousands of marooned families, while authorities feared an outbreak of disease among over 200,000 people crammed into relief camps.

Incessant rains since Aug. 8 have caused the state’s worst floods in a century, and at least 186 people have perished, many of them killed by landslides.

The India Meteorological Department forecast heavy rainfall only at one or two places of Kerala on Sunday, and in some places the flood waters began to recede.

India’s military has led rescue efforts to reach people in communities cut off for days by the floods, with many trapped on roof tops and the upper floors of their homes, and in desperate need of food and potable water.

Rescue teams were focused on the town of Chengannur on the banks of the Pamba River, where some 5,000 people are feared to be trapped, officials said.

Anil Vasudevan, who handles disaster management at the Kerala health department, said authorities had isolated three people with chickenpox in one of the relief camps in Aluva town, nearly 250 km (155 miles) from state capital Thiruvananthapuram.

He said the department was preparing to deal with a possible outbreak of water-borne and air-borne diseases in the camps, where an estimated two million people have taken shelter since the monsoon rains began three months ago.

Late on Saturday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that there was no shortage of food in the state as traders had stocked up ahead of a local festival.

“The only problem is transporting it,” he told reporters. “The central government and public have cooperated well in this effort to fight this disaster.”

He also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited the state on Saturday, announced an assistance of 5 billion rupees against his request for 20 billion.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates, where many Keralites work, has also offered assistance to the state.

Additional reporting by Gopakumar Warrier, Arunkumar Koyyur, Sriraj Kalluvila, Munsif Vengattil and Maju Samuel in BENGALURU, Swati Bhat in Mumbai; Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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