More than 1m people flee to relief camps to escape floods

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More than 1 million people have fled to relief camps in the Indian state of Kerala to escape devastating monsoon floods that have killed more than 410 people, as a huge international aid operation gathered pace.

People are flocking to camps as the scale of the desolation is revealed by receding waters and the military rescues more people each day.

The Kerala government said 1,028,000 people are now in about 3,200 relief camps across the southern state.

Kerala authorities say they are desperate for funds. The United Arab Emirates has promised $100m (£77m) in aid, Kerala’s chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, announced on after telephone talks with UAE leaders.

The amount is more than the $97m so far promised by India’s central government. Vijayan demanded a $375m package from the government, saying the state must face up to more than $3bn in devastation.

Millions of dollars in donations have poured into Kerala from the rest of India and abroad in recent days. Other state governments have promised more than $50m, while ministers and company chiefs have publicly vowed to give a month’s salary.

Even supreme court judges have donated $360 each, while the British-based Sikh group Khalsa Aid International has set up its own relief camp in Kochi, Kerala’s main city, to provide meals for 3,000 people a day.

The rescue operation is now focused on the worst-hit areas such as Chengannur, where more than 60cm (2ft) of water blocked many roads as more rain fell on Tuesday.

Army teams said several thousand people in the town remained in homes inundated by 10 days of torrential downpours.

Relief teams reached the house of retired army officer KG Pillai, who said up to 2.4 metres (8ft) of water had engulfed the house where his family had lived since 1952.

“In the past, there has never been more than 1ft of floods, and people are not used to this,” he said.

About 26 people had moved into the first floor of his home to take refuge, he said.

Thousands of army, navy and air force personnel have fanned out across the state to help those stranded in remote and hilly areas.

Dozens of helicopters and even drones have been dropping food, medicine and water to cut-off villages.

Tens of thousands of people in Chengannur and surrounding towns and villages are relying on community kitchens for meals, after water from hilly districts poured down into lowland regions. Thousands of miles of roads across the state have been destroyed or damaged.

Shashi Tharoor, a member of parliament from Kerala and a former UN official, estimated that 50,000 houses had been destroyed. He said he would seek possible UN assistance in relief efforts during a trip to Geneva.

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