New Delhi, Aug 21: The Home Ministry on Monday declared the massive flood in Kerala as a ‘calamity of severe nature’. Hit by the worst floods in almost a century, the southern state has witnessed 223 deaths while over 10 lakh displaced people have been sheltered in 3,200 relief camps across the state. “Keeping in view the intensity and magnitude of the floods and landslides in Kerala, this is a calamity of a severe nature for all practical purposes,” a Home Ministry official said. Also Read - Kerala BJP Alleges 'Forged' Signature of CM Pinarayi Vijayan in Govt File

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said 223 people have lost their lives since August 8. “Over 10.78 lakh displaced people, including 2.12 lakh women and one lakh children below 12 years of age, have been sheltered in 3,200 relief camps. Today, 602 persons were rescued from various places as the rains receded,” he told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram. Vijayan said there have been demands from various quarters to declare the floods as a national calamity. “Our demand is also the same. But the Centre is pointing out certain technical difficulties to make such an announcement. What we need now is to evaluate the total loss and get an equivalent assistance from the centre. Also Read - CM Vijayan is Worried, It's Evident: Kerala Congress Stages One-day Fast Over Gold Smuggling Case

As per preliminary estimates, the state has so far suffered a loss of nearly rs 20,000 crore. The Union Government has so far rendered all help to the state. Kerala received Rs 210 crore towards the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund and a promise of Rs 160 crore, the CM said. While rains abated and rescue operations entered the final stages, the flood-hit state faces the mammoth task of rehabilitating lakhs of people who have been rendered homeless and also preventing the outbreak of water-borne diseases. Also Read - Kerala Opposition Moves No-confidence Motion Against Pinarayi Vijayan-led Govt

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Sunday the rainfall intensity over Kerala has decreased over the past two days and added that there is no alert of heavy precipitation for the next four days. The IMD said it is expecting “heavy rainfall” only in Kozhikode, Kannur and Idduki districts. IMD’s Thiruvananthapuram centre director K Santosh said all alerts have been withdrawn and the state experienced only light to moderate rainfall on Monday. Similar precipitation has been forecast for the next four days.

Meanwhile, the relief efforts have been escalated to rescue and evacuate people with 67 helicopters, 24 aircraft, 548 motorboats and around 1,500 army personnel pressed into service. Efforts were now underway to clear the houses of the debris to make them habitable, officials said, underscoring the need for making available disinfectants like bleaching powder in adequate quantities to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases. “The focus of the state government will be to bring life back to normalcy even as rescuing the people stranded in remote areas continues. Rehabilitation of the affected will be taken up with the cooperation of the local people,” Chief Minister Vijayan had said after a review meeting on Sunday.

A team of around 100 doctors and paramedical staff from Maharashtra left for Kerala on Monday to help the flood- affected people. Maharashtra has also sent 30 tonnes of aid consisting of ready-to-eat food packets, milk powder, blankets, bed sheets, clothes, soaps and sanitary napkins to Kerala, an official release said in Mumbai. Referring to some messages being circulated on social media denigrating the relief efforts by the government, Vijayan said in a Facebook post that anyone trying to “pull us down will face serious consequences”. The Centre has, meanwhile, asked industrialists and business organisations to extend whatever help they can to Kerala, which is facing a “humanitarian crisis”, Union Minister Suresh Prabhu said in the national capital. Prabhu, who holds the portfolios of Commerce and Industry as well as Civil Aviation, told PTI that domestic airlines have been persuaded to carry cargo free of cost to the state.

Incessant rains over the last few days have blurred the distinction between Kerala’s backwaters and roads with sheets of water covering the landscape, but the state is facing shortage of potable water. Several fuel stations in the state are also reported to have run dry. Train services between Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam have resumed and railways is also planning to conduct a trial run from Shornur to Ernakulam. Train services from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi have been partially restored.

In the worst affected Chengannur in Alappuzha district, efforts are on to rescue some of those stranded in certain pockets, including Pandanad. In Kozhikode district, a 19-year-old boy committed suicide after his class 12 certificate got destroyed in the deluge. After water gushed into their house, Kailash and his parents from Karanthur had shifted to a relief camp a few days ago. Kailash had got admission for a course at the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) and had purchased a new set of clothes and set apart some money for higher studies, police said. As the rain abated for a while, he returned home on Sunday and was shocked to find his class 12 certificate completely soaked. Distraught, he ended his life by hanging himself from the ceiling of their house.

(With inputs from agencies)