CHENGANNUR, 21 August 2018 (AFP) – More than one million people have fled to relief camps in the Indian state of Kerala to escape devastating monsoon floods that have killed more than 410 people, as a huge international aid operation gathered pace.

People are flocking to camps as the scale of the desolation is revealed by receding waters and the military rescues more people each day.

The Kerala government said 1,028,000 people are now in about 3,200 relief camps across the southern state. Officials said six more bodies were found on Monday, taking the death toll to more than 410 since the monsoon started in June 2018.

Kerala authorities say they are desperate for funds. The United Arab Emirates has promised $100m (£77m) in aid, Kerala’s chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, announced on Tuesday after telephone talks with UAE leaders.

The amount is more than the $97 million so far promised by India’s central government. Vijayan demanded a $375  million package from the government, saying the state must face up to more than $3 billion in devastation.

Millions of dollars in donations have poured into Kerala from the rest of India and abroad in recent days. Other state governments have promised more than $50m, while ministers and company chiefs have publicly vowed to give a month’s salary. […]

Relief teams reached the house of retired army officer KG Pillai, who said up to 2.4 metres (8ft) of water had engulfed the house where his family had lived since 1952.

“In the past, there has never been more than 1ft of floods, and people are not used to this,” he said. […]

Shashi Tharoor, a member of parliament from Kerala and a former UN official, estimated that 50,000 houses had been destroyed. He said he would seek possible UN assistance in relief efforts during a trip to Geneva this week. [more]

Kerala: more than 1m people flee to relief camps to escape floods


By Navin Singh Khadka
21 August 2018

(BBC News) – The devastating floods in Kerala peaked last week. The monsoon rains have since begun to ease and rescue teams have been deployed, but thousands of people remain marooned.

The state should have been prepared for this - just a month earlier, a government report had warned that Kerala was the worst performer among southern Indian states in the effective management of water resources.

With 42 points, it was ranked number 12. The top three states were Gujarat in the west, Madhya Pradesh in the centre, and Andhra Pradesh in the south, with scores of 79, 69, and 68 respectively.

A month down the line, Kerala seems to have confirmed the report's finding.

Officials and experts have said the floods in Kerala - which has 44 rivers flowing through it - would not have been so severe if authorities had gradually released water from at least 30 dams.

"This could have been avoided if the dam operators had started releasing water in advance rather than waiting for dams to be filled up, when they have no alternative but to release water," said Himanshu Thakkar, a water expert at the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

It was only when the floods peaked last week that water from more than 80 dams was released.

"It is clear that major dams in the state - like Idukki and Idamalayar - only released water when Kerala was in the throes of heavy flooding, which actually proved to add further misery to the situation," Mr Thakkar said. […]

Experts say the federal government is also to blame because Kerala gets no early flood warning from the Central Water Commission (CWC), the only government agency authorised to do so.

"The unprecedented floods and dam water releases also raise the questions about flood forecasting and advance action by the CWC," Mr Thakkar said. […]

Cumulative rainfall in India, 10 August 2018 - 16 August 2018. Data: Indian Meteorological Department. Graphic: BBC

While the state has lagged behind on these preventive measures, the rainfall this monsoon season has been exceptionally high.

James Wilson, an adviser on water issues for the Kerala state government, told the BBC: "It is a calamity that has happened after 100 years and no one had predicted this amount of rain. That's why there was no preparation for this level of disaster.

"We have been managing floods every year, but this time it was extraordinarily extreme and that is why they were forced to release the waters of the dams."

Kerala recorded more than 37 percent excess rainfall in just two-and-a-half months, while in the past that has happened throughout the monsoon season which usually lasts about four months.

Such heavy rainfall in a short space of time also triggered landslides that killed many people. Environmentalists say deforestation is responsible for this. [more]

Why the Kerala floods proved so deadly

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