Flood death toll in India's Kerala jumps to 357, losses pegged at S$3.8 billion

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It's now estimated that more than 300 people have died since the rains began three months ago.
Rescuers in helicopters and boats fought through renewed torrential rain to reach stranded villages as the toll from the worst monsoon floods in a century rose above 320 dead in Kerala, India, on Aug 18, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

KOCHI, INDIA (AFP, REUTERS) - The death toll from the worst flooding to hit India's Kerala state in a century has jumped to 357, the authorities said on Sunday (Aug 19), with losses to infrastructure pegged at some S$3.8 billion.

The deluge in Kerala finally let up on Sunday, giving some respite for thousands of marooned families, while the authorities feared an outbreak of disease among two million people crammed into relief camps.

The idyllic tourist hot spot has been badgered by torrential monsoon rains since the end of May, triggering landslides and flash floods that have swept away entire villages.

"Since May 29, when the monsoon starts in Kerala, a total of 357 people have lost their lives until now," a statement from the state's information officer said, with 33 losing their lives over the last 24 hours.

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.

Some 353,000 people have taken shelter in 3,026 relief camps as thousands of army, navy and air force troops fan out to help those still stranded.

Roads and 134 bridges have suffered damage, isolating remote areas in the hilly districts of the state which are worst affected.

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The worst floods in a hundred years in the Indian state of Kerala killed scores of people and forced hundreds of thousands into relief camps, officials said on Friday with more misery expected as heavy rain pushed water levels higher.

Panic-stricken people have been making appeals on social media for help, saying they cannot get through to rescue services.

"According to preliminary estimates, Kerala's losses due to the floods is 19,512 crore rupees (S$3.8 billion). Actual losses can be estimated only after the water recedes," the statement said.

The state chief minister has requested more funding as well as 20 more helicopters and 600 motorised boats in order to step up the rescue efforts.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted a brief air inspection tour of the state Saturday and announced an immediate grant of US$75 million.

Mercy Relief Singapore said in a press statement on Sunday that the agency will deploy a disaster response team to Kerala to aid in emergency relief operations. The team will depart Singapore on Monday.

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