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KOCHI/NEW DELHI, India, Aug 20, 2018 (News Wires) - Indian health authorities prepared defenses against the spread of disease in flood-hit Kerala state on Monday as water receded and a huge clean-up gathered pace after the worst floods in a century killed more than 200 people.

Incessant rain since Aug. 8 in the southern state has swelled rivers and triggered landslides. Dozens of people are missing and nearly a million are sheltering in thousands of relief camps, state officials said.

“The biggest challenges immediately ahead are cleaning of the flood-hit houses, rehabilitation, and prevention of water-borne diseases,” said Mahesh P., a village-level officer from Rayamangalam, some 45 km (28 miles) from Kerala’s financial capital of Kochi.

Light to moderate rain was expected across Kerala on Monday, bringing some respite to rescue workers, who have been battling rising waters and mudslides to reach tens of thousands of stranded villagers.

Rainfall in the state during the June-September monsoon season has been more than 40 per cent higher than normal, with torrential rain in the last 10 days forcing authorities to release water from dozens of dangerously full dams, sending surges into rivers that then overflowed their banks.

Anil Vasudevan, who handles disaster management at Kerala’s health department, said the state was preparing to battle any outbreak of diseases in the relief camps and preventive medicines were being distributed.

Mahesh said villagers had all pulled together to rescue people and prevent an even bigger disaster.

“The bulk of the credit for the rescue goes to the ordinary citizens. The army, the navy, the local authorities assisted them,” Mahesh said.

“The flood has bonded the people like never before, with people sharing whatever they had.”

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said there was no shortage of food in the state as traders had stocked up ahead of Onam, the state’s biggest festival which falls on Aug. 25.

The state has cancelled all official celebrations in connection with the Hindu harvest festival.

KOCHI  (India), August 19, 2018 (News Wires) - 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.

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 motorised 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.

HANOI, July 24, 2018 (News Wires) - The death toll from floods and landslides triggered by tropical storm Son Tinh rose to 27 on Tuesday, and seven people are still missing, the government's Disaster Management Authority said.

With a long coastline, Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding, with 389 people killed last year in natural disasters such as floods and landslides, according to government statistics.

Though tropical storm Son Tinh weakened to a tropical depression by the time it reached Vietnam last week, the torrential rains it brought caused heavy flooding and landslides in many parts of northern Vietnam. Some areas in the outskirts of the capital Hanoi remain submerged.

The remote mountainous province of Yen Bai has suffered the heaviest casualties in the latest floods and landslides, with 13 people reportedly killed, 18 injured and four missing, the disaster management agency said in a statement.

The floods and landslides have also damaged and submerged more than 12,000 houses, more than 90,000 hectares (222,395 acres) of crops, mostly paddy, and cut off traffic to several parts of northern Vietnam, the agency said.

Last month, heavy rains triggered flash floods and landslides which killed 24 people in the remote and mountainous northern provinces of Lai Chau and Ha Giang.

The agency urged the authorities and people to keep vigilant for more floods and landslides over the coming days.

According to the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, heavy rain is forecast to continue in the northern part of the country until early August.

CHIANG RAI, Thailand, July 18, 2018 (News Wires) - The 12 Thai boys who were rescued from a flooded cave made their first public appearance Wednesday after being discharged from hospital.

The young soccer players bounced a ball as they appeared in front of reporters in their Wild Boars team shirts.

The players were individually applauded as they stood, bowed, and introduced themselves to reporters.

The team took part in “confidence-building exercises” prior to their release, according to the hospital.

“They will definitely be able to conduct their normal life,” one health official told journalists. “The doctors and nurses are under more stress than the team."

The boys and their 25-year-old coach were safely brought out of the Tham Luang mountain cave complex near the border with Myanmar last week after a perilous rescue operation that drew global media attention and hundreds of journalists to the scene.

The players recounted the moment they realised they would be rescued.

“It happened in the evening,” one of the team members said at the news conference. “We heard people speaking. We were not sure if it was a hallucination then we went quieter and realised it was real.”

He said he was “startled” by the rescuer when he emerged from the water. “It was a miracle," he added. "It was the first glimpse of hope."

The boy said that the group were so hungry that he could "only think about food".

He added: “We did not know whether we would survive.”

The boys have been in hospital in the northern town of Chiang Rai since they were rescued, but have been pronounced generally healthy by doctors, aside from some minor infections.

“They are strong physically as well as mentally,” a spokesman told reporters. “Everybody has shown determination to face life in the future.”

The boys, who are aged 11 to 16, and their coach had planned to explore the cavern for about an hour after soccer practice on June 23. But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.

Two British divers found them on July 2 squatting on a mound in a flooded chamber several miles inside the complex. Rescuers then had to work out how to get them out through the tunnels, some of which were full of fast-flowing floodwaters.

Their dramatic story is already set for a retelling by Hollywood, with two production companies looking to put together movies about the boys and their rescue.

Jon M. Chu, the director of “Crazy Rich Asians,” said he was working to develop a film about the rescue in order to prevent a Hollywood "whitewash" of the story.

Passakorn Bunyalak, deputy governor of the province of Chiang Rai, said the boys would be sent home after the news conference and he was requesting their parents and journalists to hold off interviews for about 30 days.

"At this early stage, we are trying to get media not to bother the boys," he told Reuters on Tuesday, adding that they were protected by Thailand's Child Protection Act. The law protects those under 18 from media coverage that would cause emotional injury.

KURASHIKI, Japan, July 12, 2018 (News Wires) - Intense heat and water shortages raised fears of disease outbreaks in flood-hit western Japan on Thursday as the death toll from the worst weather disaster in 36 years neared 200.

More than 200,000 households had no water a week after torrential rains caused floods and set off landslides across western Japan, bringing death and destruction to decades-old communities built on mountain slopes and flood plains.

The death toll rose to 195, with several dozen people still missing, the government said on Thursday.

With daily temperatures above 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) and high humidity, life in school gymnasiums and other evacuation centers, where families spread out on mats on the floors, began to take a toll.

Television footage showed one elderly woman trying to sleep by kneeling with her upper body on the seat of a folding chair, arms over her eyes to keep out the light.

With few portable fans in the evacuation centres, many survivors tried to cool themselves with paper fans.

The limited water supply meant that people are not getting enough fluids and in danger of suffering from heatstroke, authorities said. People are also reluctant to use what water they do have to wash their hands, raising fears of epidemics.

"Without water, we can't really clean anything up. We can't wash anything," one man told NHK television.

The government has sent water trucks to the disaster area, but supplies remain limited.

More than 70,000 military, police and firefighters toiled through the debris in a grim search for the missing.

Some teams shoveled dirt into sacks and piled the bags into trucks. Others used diggers and chainsaws to work through landslides and splintered buildings.

Many areas were buried deep in mud that smelled like sewage and had hardened in the heat, making the search more difficult.

Disasters set off by torrential rains have become more frequent in Japan, perhaps due to global warming, experts say. Dozens of people died after similar rains caused flooding around the same time last year.

"It's an undeniable fact that this sort of disaster due to torrential, unprecedented rain is becoming more frequent in recent years," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference in Tokyo.

"Preserving the lives and peaceful existence of our citizens is the government's biggest duty. We recognise that there's a need to look into steps we can take to reduce the damage from disasters like this even a little bit," he added.

TOKYO, July 10, 2018 (News Wires) - The death toll in record rains that have devastated parts of Japan with flooding and landslides rose on Tuesday to 156, the top government spokesman said.

Search-and-rescue operations are continuing after the worst weather-related disaster in Japan in over three decades, with dozens of people still believed missing.

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