#DHRecaps | Recalling the once-a-century monsoon fury

#DHRecaps | Recalling the once-a-century monsoon fury

Flood affected areas of Chengannur. PTI image for representation

In the month of August, Kerala witnessed one of the worst spells of rainfall in a century. The sudden downpour caused devasting flooding and landslides that left many dead and disrupted the lives of tens of thousands.

The Kerala flood

The Kerala flood, which affected people in 14 districts, was the worst since 1924. The death toll reached nearly 488 and the deluge hit as many as 2.11 lakh people.

The state faced an "extreme flood situation" as it received a cumulative rainfall of 2,227.26m, within the time span of 16 days. According to the district rainfall data, Idukki received the highest excess rainfall with 92% above normal levels. Excess rainfall of above 40% was also experienced in the districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Palakkad, Kollam, Kottayam, and Malappuram. The rainfall resulted in 37 out of 42 dams being opened and the dam shutters of Cheruthoni being opened after 26 years.

Relief and rescue

The rescue operations in Kerala were carried out by the Army, the Navy and the Air Force along with the National Disaster Response Force. Operation Madad and Operation Shayog were launched by the Navy and the Army respectively. 

To rescue people, Army personnel constructed bridges at several spots with locally available resources and trees. 

Relief materials, including drinking water, food, provisions, and medicines were distributed in various localities in coordination with local bodies. 

The Kerala rescue and relief operation is one of the largest that the Air Force has ever conducted. According to an NDTV report, the number of people airlifted was 584, the highest number in a humanitarian operation. 

Social media celebrated fishermen as 'real heroes' as more than 1,500 of them engaged in rescue operations. They aided many victims trapped in homes. 

Human stories

The harrowing tales of the people’s plight took centre stage as reports kept flooding in.

In a YouTube video that went viral, a fisherman is seen allowing people to step on him to get into a rescue boat, which was too high for them to reach.

Actor Siddharth Suryanarayan started a challenge on Twitter in which he wrote: “I did the #KeralaDonationChallenge. It was awesome! Will you? Please?” He urged people to post their donation proofs so as to encourage others. 

In a recent shocking story, a young fisherman who saved over 60 flood victims, died screaming for help in a road accident. Jineesh was left unattended for about 30 minutes on the road, his friend said. 

Idukki, one of Kerala's popular tourist destinations, was the worst hit. Army personnel rescued a group of tourists who were stranded due to a landslide near a private resort. Of the 54 tourists, 24 were foreigners. 

In those trying times, ordinary citizens stepped up to help each other in remote areas that rescue workers couldn't reach. 

Speaking to DH recently, Green Voyage Hospitality Executive Director Anandhu UR, who was in Munnar during the floods, recounted his ordeal. "Tourists were extremely worried as the situation kept worsening and the whole state was under distress. We were involved in relocating guests and tourists to a safe locality, which was 45 kms away. Kochi Airport was also closed due to the flood and we had to make alternate arrangements," he said. 

Human beings were not the only ones hit by nature’s fury. Many pets and abandoned stray animals were stranded after the downpour. Animal charities made attempts to rescue pets left behind during the evacuation. 

A dog puppy is rescued from
 floods in Kerala. Image via Reuters

As the Kerala death toll kept rising, a woman named Sunitha in Thrissur refused to heed the words of rescue personnel because they said they could not rescue 25 of her pets. When an animal welfare group arrived, the dogs had huddled up in a bed as the house was flooded. The BBC termed the efforts India's biggest pet rescue operation. 

What was the cause?

NASA attributed the rains to cloud bands in the Western Ghats but the reason for the floods is still hotly debated. Hindustan Times quoted Meteorological Department Director KJ Ramesh statement that climate change was the cause of the devastating floods. Researchers at IIT Bombay concluded that rapid urbanization and loss of forests due to excessive farming could be contributing to frequent floods in river basin areas.

According to a Reuters report, experts have varying opinions on whether the simultaneous release of water from a number of dams could have added to the flooding. Almost all experts agree, however, that reservoir levels were too high prior to the catastrophe.

Recovery and rehabilitation

According to a Hindustan Times report, Rs 562.45 crore was made available in the State Disaster Relief Fund of Kerala, in addition to the Rs 600 crore that was released by the Central Government. 

The Kerala Government provided information on the loss of life, property, crops and infrastructure to the Home Minister and sought Rs 4,700 crore as compensation for the damage caused, according to the Financial Express.
Deccan Herald's contribution

The Deccan Herald and Prajavani Relief Trust raised Rs. 1.36 crores to contribute to relief efforts through its Kerala-Karnataka Flood Relief Fund.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan thanked the readers of the two leading dailies of Karnataka for their contributions and said that the amount raised would go a long way in rebuilding the affected parts of the state.