Kerala flood: Relief, revival and reconstruction
The floods of 1924 were the most intense in Kerala’s recorded history submerging nearly the entire coastal regions of the state. However, the one that hit Kerala in August 2018 was the worst in terms of sheer devastation – claiming at least 400 lives and displacing over a million people. Thousands of crores rupees worth of property was damaged or destroyed completely. The scientific community attributes the calamity to the vastly diminished capability of the tiny coastal state to deal with extreme flooding situations due to deforestation, rampant mining, stone quarrying and illegal construction on ecologically sensitive regions. The reasons were largely the same enumerated in the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, commonly called the Gadgil Report – tabled in 2011 which successive governments ignored. Probably none imagined the price for callousness would be so high.
What emerged from the utter chaos that prevailed for two weeks beginning August 9, 2018, were tales of selfless courage and valour, humanity and grit. Besides the armed forces and disaster management personnel who were pressed into action, the fishermen of the state too came out with their boats and skill sets. Thousands of people trapped on rooftops or washed away by landslides were heroically rescued by these brave souls. Estimates put the number of relief camps set up across Kerala at not less than 5,000. In addition to the relief camps which were put up by government bodies, companies and political and religious organisations, individuals whose houses were intact took in affected neighbours sharing bedrooms, kitchens and provisions.
Twenty20 relief camp that functioned within the St Joseph’s High School compound in Kizhakkambalam gave more than refuge to over 1,200 people. With hundreds pouring in each passing day, besides organisation personnel, volunteers were also recruited from among the staff of the parent organisation, the Anna-Kitex Group.
“Utmost care was given to each and every one who came to our camp,” said Sabu Jacob, chief coordinator of Twenty20. “We ensured that everybody was fed and clothed properly during the tenure of their stay. We also had the most experienced doctors attending to those who needed medical attention.” Doctors were available at camp and on call 24×7 and two ambulances kept on standby in case of emergencies. The support didn’t end with the camp.
“Most of those who came here were those who had lost not just their houses but their entire life savings. We have offered all possible help to help them get back on their feet once they go back,” Sabu Jacob said. A survey was also conducted among the camp beneficiaries that detailed the extent of damage and loss suffered by them.
Over the weeks and months that followed, Twenty20 and Anna-Kitex staff as well as volunteers visited the houses of the most-affected ones and lent them a much-needed hand in cleaning out the accumulated muck, sanitising the rooms and fixing up in general. Recently Twenty20 also distributed books and stationary items among the families with school-going children.