Death toll nears 400 in India’s flood-hit Kerala, dozens missing

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Babies and their mothers seeking refuge from flooding interact at a relief camp in Aluva on the outskirts of Kochi in the south Indian state of Kerala on August 20, 2018. (AFP)
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A mini-truck makes its way down a flooded road in Paravur on the outskirts of Kochi in the south Indian state of Kerala, on August 20, 2018. (AFP)
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This handout photo released by India's Defence Ministry on August 18, 2018 shows an Indian man being winched up to an Indian Air Force helicopter as he is evacuated from a flood affected area in the southern state of Kerala. (AFP)
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An Indian rescue worker carries a baby boy rescued with his family from homes in a water-logged area as they are moved to a relief camp in Chenagannur following widespread flooding in the south Indian state of Kerala on August 20, 2018. (AFP)
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Plastic bottles and other trash floats over flood waters next to inundated structures in Alappuzha in the southern state of Kerala, India, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP)
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Volunteers carry boxes of food aid at a relief camp for families displaced by flooding in Aluva on the outskirts of Kochi in the south Indian state of Kerala on August 20, 2018. (AFP)
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People rescue their goats in a country boat at Kuttanad in Alappuzha in the southern state of Kerala, India, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP)
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Two men row a boat through a flooded paddy field next to an inundated structure in Alappuzha in the southern state of Kerala, India, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 21 August 2018

Death toll nears 400 in India’s flood-hit Kerala, dozens missing

  • Kochi’s airport has suspended operations until further notice
  • The insides of many homes will have about 60 cm of mud

KOCHI/NEW DELHI, India,: The death toll in India’s southern state of Kerala rose on Monday to nearly 400 after its worst flood in a century, as authorities handed out medicine and disinfectants to ward off disease in thousands of relief camps.
Dozens of people are missing and 1.2 million are sheltering in the camps, state officials said, as water receded and a huge clean-up gathered pace.
“The death toll has risen to 373,” an official of the state’s disaster management authority told Reuters.
Kerala received rainfall more than 40 percent greater than normal for the monsoon season, which runs from June to September. Torrential rain in the last 10 days forced officials to release water from dozens of dangerously full dams.
The Indian government classified the floods as a “calamity of severe nature.” Kerala has pitched it as a national disaster, which if accepted by the federal government, is likely to prompt greater commitments of funds for relief and rebuilding efforts.
But, without a yardstick for such a declaration, it could be an uphill task, state officials involved with disaster management said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called the flood one of the worst in India’s history, displacing more than half a million people.
Federal health minister J.P. Nadda said more than 3,500 medical camps were set up across a region roughly the size of Switzerland, where rains since Aug. 8 have swelled rivers and triggered landslides.
“There is a requirement for 90 different medicines and the first instalment has reached,” he added.
“The biggest challenges immediately ahead are cleaning of the flood-hit houses, rehabilitation, and prevention of water-borne diseases,” said Mahesh P., a village official in Rayamangalam, about 45 km (28 miles) from Kerala’s financial capital of Kochi.
Mahesh oversees four relief camps in his village, which itself escaped flood damage. The camps accommodate people rescued from neighboring areas, which were among the worst affected.
The villagers had all pulled together to rescue people and prevent an even bigger disaster, Mahesh said.
“The flood has bonded the people like never before, sharing whatever they had.”
Chlorine powder to disinfect water and other cleaning material are distributed by the camps Mahesh oversees, along with a basic survival kit consisting of a five-day supply of rice and food, toiletries and clothing.

LONG QUEUES
Light to moderate rain was expected across Kerala on Monday, promising respite to rescue workers, who have battled rising waters and mudslides to reach tens of thousands of stranded villagers.
In one of the worst-hit areas, Chengannur, about 100 km (62 miles) from Kochi, a long queue of women snaked out of a medical camp at the main relief center.
As a helicopter hovered overhead, doctors checked elderly men and women lying on wooden benches in an engineering college.
“People are being screened for respiratory infections,” said a camp doctor, Rajesh Parameshwaran, adding that another infection doctors were targeted was leptospirosis, which can strike people wading through stagnant water.
Those returning home from the camps as the waters recede face a difficult clean-up.
The insides of many homes will have about 60 cm (24 inches) of mud, officials said. Wells, commonly used in Kerala, are contaminated and few places have electricity to pump water.
Kochi’s airport has suspended operations until Sunday. National carrier Air India on Monday began flying turboprop planes from the city’s naval airport to the cities of Bangalore and Coimbatore in neighboring states.
To assist passengers, India’s aviation regulator asked domestic airlines to cap maximum fares to and from Kerala and nearby airports.
Kerala faces no shortage of food, at least. Traders had stocked up before the Hindu harvest festival of Onam on Saturday, the chief minister said.
Kerala has canceled all official celebrations of what is usually its biggest festive event.
Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the opposition Congress party, urged Modi not to discriminate between states controlled by his Bharatiya Janata Party and those such as Kerala, which it does not rule.
The state, ruled by the communist party, has received just a third of the immediate assistance of 20 billion rupees ($285 million) it sought from the federal government.
($1=70.0900 Indian rupees)


90-minute British DnaNudge COVID-19 test is accurate, Lancet study finds

Updated 18 September 2020

90-minute British DnaNudge COVID-19 test is accurate, Lancet study finds

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC radio that Britain was rolling out the tests across hospitals
  • Hancock said the machines could also be deployed at other locations such as schools

LONDON: A British COVID-19 test known as DnaNudge that gives results in just over an hour and which requires no laboratory was accurate in almost all cases, an academic review in the Lancet has found.
Faster testing could allow more people to return to work or permit testing on entry to hospital, thus slowing a second spike in coronavirus infections.
The new test, based on the design of a DNA test developed by a professor at Imperial College London, received approval for clinical use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) at the end of April after successful trials.
In a study in The Lancet Microbe, the test was found to have an average sensitivity – the ability to correctly identify those with COVID-19 – of 94.4% and a specificity – correctly identifying those without the disease – of 100%.
“These results suggest that the CovidNudge test, which can be performed at a patient’s bedside without the need to handle any sample material, has comparable accuracy to standard laboratory testing,” Professor Graham Cooke, lead author of the study from the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, said.
The Lancet paper described the test, which requires one nostril swab, as “a sensitive, specific, and rapid point of care test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 without laboratory handling or sample pre-processing.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC radio that Britain was rolling out the tests across hospitals.
“The critical thing in terms of usefulness is that the machine doesn’t need to be in a lab — it is about the size of a shoebox — therefore you can put one, say, in an A&E (accident and emergency) department and they can know whether people coming in have got the coronavirus or not,” Hancock said.
Hancock said the machines could also be deployed at other locations such as schools.
Each box can run one test at a time so could process about 16 tests per day, said a spokeswoman for the company that produces the tests.