Kochi: As relief and rehabilitation work is on in flood ravaged Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday urged all Malayalis to donate one month salary to rebuild the state, where the death toll has now touched 302 and over four lakh are still in relief camps.
In many districts, people have started moving from camps to their homes after cleaning work has been completed.
The receding flood waters had left mounds of mud and debris in their homes and surroundings.
The toll on Sunday climbed to 302 with more bodies being recovered, a government press release said in Thiruvananthapuram.
Vijayan also reviewed ongoing relief operations and later saluted the services of the various central forces which had played a vital role in relief and rescue operations.
At a formal farewell function on Sunday night, he handed over citations to various senior officials and men in uniform and said 'We could directly witness the bold initiatives they took to rescue those who were stranded in the flood waters'.
Kerala Governor P Sathasivam met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Delhi on Saturday and apprised him of the situation in the state.
The prime minister assured the governor that Kerala would get more central funds from the National Disaster Response Fund as per laid down procedure and that the Rs 600 crore central aid released so far was only the advance assistance.
There are still 4.62 lakh people in 1,435 relief camps. At least three lakh houses have been cleaned so far.
Modi in his monthly 'Mann ki Baat' radio address on Sunday, hailed the humanitarian assistance rendered to victims of Kerala floods by people from all walks of life, saying irrespective of age group or area of work, people are contributing for the cause.
He also put on record his appreciation for the role rendered by the Army, Air Force, Navy, National Disaster Response Force, Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force and the Rapid Action Force in relief and rescue operations.
"Yesterday was the festival of Onam. We pray for Onam to provide strength to the country, especially Kerala, so that it returns to normalcy on a newer journey of development," he said.
Huge pumps will be used to flush out water from homes and premises, after which the cleaning process will be taken up by removing the accumulated silt, authorities said.
Vijayan, who had accompanied Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh during the aerial surveys, said they were touched by the intensity of the devastation and he hoped that the Centre would provide more funds.
Opposition leader in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala said more central funds are needed for Kerala and there was nothing wrong in accepting foreign aid to help rebuild the state.
With the floods having left a trail of massive destruction and rehabilitation and reconstruction requiring huge financial resources, Vijayan wanted Keralites, both in the country and outside, to exhibit their generous self and contribute one day's salary to the state.
"We need to find our strength. It will be difficult to contribute one month's salary at a stretch. But Keralites, including from outside, can at first contribute three days salary a month and over a period of 10 months, donate the remaining sum," Vijayan told Malayalam TV channels in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.
In the coming days, relief camps in schools and colleges will be wound up and people, whose homes were fully waterlogged even now, would be shifted to marriage halls and convention centres, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac told reporters in Alapuzha.
Meanwhile, the defence personnel would continue to support the state authorities in flood hit areas in relief and rehabilitation initiatives, a spokesperson said.
As on date a total of 10 Columns and 12 Engineer Task Force of the Army are carrying out continuous rescue and relief operations in the area.
The troops are involved in road opening, clearing of landslides and construction of temporary bridges, utilising the natural resources available in the area.
So far approximately 26 temporary bridges have been constructed, repaired and approximately 50 roads cleared for the general public, a defence press release said.
At least 3.64 lakh carcasses of birds and over 17,000 of big animals have been retrieved and buried so far.