Rescue personnel evacuate residents in an inflatable boat from a flooded area at Muppathadam Picture: AFP
KOCHI/NEW DELHI, India: The death toll rose yesterday to nearly 400 in India's southern state of Kerala, reeling under 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 1.2million 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'' disaster management authority said.

Kerala received rainfall that was more than 40% greater than normal for the monsoon season, which runs from June to September, and torrential rain in the past 10 days forced officials to release water from dozens of dangerously full dams.

Federal Health Minister JP Nadda said more than 3500 medical camps were set up across a region roughly the size of Switzerland, where rains since August 8 have swelled rivers and triggered landslides.

“There is a requirement for 90 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 45km 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 neighbouring 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 have.” - Reuters/African News Agency