Rescue volunteers carry women from their flooded homes in Kerala. (PTI)

Threat of Disease Outbreak Rises as Kerala Flood Waters Recede

(Bloomberg) -- Authorities in India’s flood-ravaged tourist hub stepped up relief efforts amid the threat of the outbreak of water-borne diseases, as nearly a million gathered in relief camps across the southern state of Kerala.

The death toll has climbed to 341 since the monsoon started in June, including 191 since Aug. 8, the state’s disaster management control room said by phone, while the number of evacuees at relief camps is growing. As many as 928,000 people have taken shelter at 3,700 camps.

The worst floods since 1924 have caused damage worth $2.8 billion, according to a tweet from Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Flights to the state’s commercial capital of Kochi are expected to start today and train services are likely to be restored as waters begin to recede.

The threat of disease outbreaks is now a primary concern, with carcasses in flood waters raising fears of health risks to the state’s nearly 34 million population. India’s health ministry will today airlift 60 tonnes of emergency medicines and has put six specialized medical teams on standby, the home ministry statement said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an immediate relief of 5 billion rupees as losses continues to mount in one of the country’s top tourist destinations. A special train will carry 1.4 million liters of water and a Navy ship with 8,00,000 liters of water will reach Kerala today.

“The immediate concern is rescue and disease but in the long term, India will have to plan taking into account the rising risk of climate events,” said Arivudai Nambi Appadurai, India Adaptation Strategy Head at the World Resources Institute. “This is an extraordinary climate event and is in line with scientists’ predictions for south Asia.”

Kerala received 164 percent more than normal rain in the first 19 days of this month. Flood damages could cost south Asia as much as $215 billion each year by 2030, according to the World Resources Institute.

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