Kerala floods: More people leave relief camps, cleaning in high gear

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More and more people on Sunday quit various relief camps in flood-battered Kerala and returned to tidy up their once submerged homes. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that 1,435 relief shelters were still operating, housing a total of 462,456 people, down from 6.05 lakh people in 1,822 camps on Saturday. Vijayan said that with schools and educational institutions set to open from August 29, all camps in such places should be moved to other buildings. On Sunday, while a large number of camps in the northern districts were wound up, the shelters continued to function in southern districts like Chengannur, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Thrissur. Saji Cherian, a CPI-M legislator from Chengannur, told the media that while a good number of people returned to their home on Sunday, the last of the inmates would be back in their houses by September 1. Congress legislators Anwar Sadat and V.D. Sateeshan insisted that there should be no forcible move to close the relief camps. According to figures provided by the Kerala government, Sunday saw 16,255 volunteers cleaning 14,485 homes and 254 public establishments including roads in the flood-ravaged districts. Governor P. Sathasivamas Office quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as saying that the financial mechanism to meet the rescue and relief operations during any notified disaster was governed by the guidelines on the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Fund. State Congress President M.M. Hassan said Congress President Rahul Gandhi would visit the flood affected districts on August 28 and 29. The state unit of the Congress with the help of sponsors will construct 1,000 new houses, he said, and demanded that the immediate assistance of Rs 10,000 announced by the Kerala government should be hiked to Rs 25,000. Ever since monsoon rains began lashing Kerala on May 29, a total of 417 people have died. The flood fury has also caused unprecedented destruction and, at one point, forced more than one million people to take shelter in relief camps.