By Michael Safi
18 August 2018

DELHI (The Guardian) – Thousands of people in the southern Indian state of Kerala are still awaiting rescue from the worst flooding in nearly 100 years, with heavy rain predicted to continue for at least the next two days.

With more than 300,000 people sheltering in relief camps and thousands of others on high ground in areas cut off by floods, supplying food, medicine and clean water is a growing challenge for authorities.

More than 320 people have died as a result of the monsoon floods in the past fortnight, according to Kerala’s chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, although the state emergency control room reports a lower toll of about 200.

Rescuers were still to reach some parts of the state on Saturday, and about 10,000 people were thought to be stranded on rooftops or the upper floors of homes.

Among them were the family of Shrinni, a resident of the central town of Ranni, who fled their home to a relative’s on higher ground but still found themselves in danger. “It’s a four-storey house, but water started pouring in fast until it reached the second floor and stayed that way for two days,” she said.

“My relatives shifted to the top floor with all the stuff they immediately needed. An airlift came, but as my 85-year-old grandmother had never taken a flight in her life and she was afraid to go. So the whole family stayed back. On Friday, rescuers came with motor boats and shifted them to a safe place.” […]

More than 82,000 rescue operations were mounted on Friday by the Indian military, disaster management teams and volunteers workers including fishermen. Their efforts have been hampered, however, by incessant rain, which limits their work to daylight hours.

Authorities are calling for more food, water and medicines to supply more than 1,500 relief camps that have sprung up around the state. “The camps are very crowded,” said Jayakiran, a volunteer rescue worker in Cochin who had just returned from touring two camps near the city. We are collecting food such as rice but also hygienic materials such as sanitary napkins and nappies, because there is always a fear of diseases breaking out.”

Intense rainy seasons are an annual phenomenon in Kerala, which lies in the path of the south-west monsoon that provides India with 70% of its annual rainfall in a four-month period. When the downpours began earlier this month, state authorities initially assured the situation was under control.

They appear to have been caught by surprise, however, and then overwhelmed by the prolonged intensity of rainfall more than two-and-a-half times heavier than usual in the week to 15 August and 457% more than average in the worst-hit district of Idduki.

The last road into Chengannurin central Kerala disappeared before the eyes of officials sent to inspect the area on Friday evening, leaving about 50,000 people trapped inside the town.

One resident used social media to broadcast himself trapped neck-deep in water inside the first floor of his home. “It looks like water is rising to the second floor,” he said in the footage, which went viral. “I hope you can see this. Please pray for us.” [more]

Kerala floods: many thousands await rescue as downpour continues

Volunteers and rescue personnel evacuate local residents in a boat in the Indian state of Kerala on 16 August 2018. Photo: AFP / Getty Images

18 August 2018 (The Economic Times) – The death toll due to rains and floods in Kerala has gone up to 357 this monsoon season, as 22 more deaths were reported on Saturday and red alert continued in 11 districts following prediction of more rains.

The death toll due to torrential rains since 9 August 2018 -- the third spell during this year's monsoon in the southern state -- reached 194 with the casualties reported on Saturday in Ernakulam, Thrissur, Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Chengannur districts.

The India Meteorological Department forecast on Saturday afternoon that widespread rains, with heavy rains at isolated places, is likely to continue over Kerala following low pressure area very likely to develop over northwest Bay of Bengal and the neighbourhood during the next 24 hours. Barring Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kasargode, the remaining 11 districts of Kerala continued to be on red alert following prediction of more rains.

The worst affected places include Aluva, Chalakudy, Chengannur, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta, where massive rescue operations were on as scores of persons were rescued. Media houses continued to be flooded with requests from friends and relatives of those stranded in affected areas. […]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sanctioned Rs 500 crore [Rs 5 billion] to the flood-battered state, apart from Rs 100 crore [Rs 1 billion] announced earlier by the Centre on 12 August 2018, before returning to Delhi after an aerial survey of the affected areas. Vijayan told the media here that the situation is "very serious and grave". […]

Meanwhile, anger mounted across Kerala as coordination of rescue work went haywire due to the magnitude of calamity. Flaying the state for "failing in the endeavour", Leader of Opposition Chennithala said: "I have been flooded with calls from the affected persons. Even now, thousands of people are stranded. The Chief Minister dismissed with contempt when I said this week that rescue and relief should be handed over to the Army. I do not want to blame anyone but it has been proved beyond doubt that the state government has failed." […]

Kerala's government has described the crisis -- one of the worst in decades -- as "extremely grave" and rescue operations are underway to help thousands who remain trapped by floodwaters. […]

In a tweet Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said his state was "facing the worst flood in 100 years". Vijayan also said the situation continued to be "grave" with over 3.14 lakh [314,000] people from over 70,000 families sheltered in relief camps. He said since 29 May 2018, start of Monsoon, 385 persons have lost their lives. [more]

Kerala flood live updates: Death toll jumps to 357, 11 districts still on alert

By Saptarshi Ray
17 August 2018

NEW DELHI (The Telegraph) – The south Indian state of Kerala has been hit with the highest rainfall in a century leaving more than 300 dead, after widespread flooding submerged roads, power lines went down and dams reached bursting point.

Pinarayi Vijayan, the state’s chief minister, said on Twitter: “Kerala is facing its worst flood in 100 years. 80 dams opened, 324 lives lost, and 223,139 people are in about 1500+ relief camps.”

The 324 death toll includes fatalities from a previous bout of monsoon storms last month, and includes the fatalities since last week which is thought to be up to 175.

Narendra Modi, the prime minister, was due to reach Kerala Friday evening to help manage the disaster, after attending the funeral of the former Indian leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in Delhi.

A red alert has been issued in all 14 Keralan districts, with the central government activating all three wings of the armed forces in a gargantuan rescue operation. Helicopters airlifted people from their roofs and dam gates were flung open as torrential rain battered the state non-stop for nearly a fortnight. […]

People stranded in the hill station of Munnar, one of the main tourist sites in Kerala, say hotel rooms lie vacant, most places have lost power and there's little phone reception, with roads submerged by mud.

Officials warn that hospitals in the state are facing a shortage of oxygen and petrol stations are running dry. The fierce storms have caused grave damage to crops and properties that the state estimates to be over Rs 80 billion (£1 billion). [more]

India warns of 'extremely grave' crisis as death toll rises to 324 in Kerala floods



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