The death toll from the worst flooding to hit India's Kerala state in a century has jumped to 357, authorities said Sunday, with losses to infrastructure pegged at some $3 billion.
The idyllic tourist hotspot 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.
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.
Anil Vasudevan, who handles disaster management at the Kerala health department, said authorities had isolated three people with chickenpox in one of the relief camps in Aluva town, nearly 250 km from state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
He said the department was preparing to deal with a possible outbreak of water-borne and air-borne diseases in the camps, where an estimated two million people have taken shelter since the monsoon rains began three months ago.
Roads and 134 bridges have suffered damage, isolating remote areas in the hilly districts of the state which are worst affected.
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 ($2.9 bln). 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 motorized 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 $75 million.
Kerala, which usually receives high rainfall, has seen over 250 percent more rain than normal between Aug. 8 and Aug. 15, causing the state authorities to release water from 35 dangerously full dams, sending a surge into its main river.
As the rain abated on Sunday morning, one resident in Cheranelloor, a suburb of Kochi situated on the banks of the Periyar river, visited his home to see when he and his family could return.
"The entire house is covered with mud. It will take days to clean to make it liveable. All our household articles, including the TV and fridge have been destroyed," 60-year-old T P Johnny told Reuters news agency.
(With AFP and Reuters)