An extraordinary southwest monsoon in Kerala has unleashed floods and landslides in the state, the magnitude of which has rarely been observed in recent memory. The situation, described as unprecedented by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, is considered similar to the violent floods of 1924 if not as serious. The Centre and state administration along with the armed forces are working hand-in-hand across all 14 districts, to rescue thousands stranded in their homes.
Here are all the answers to the questions our readers may have regarding the situation:
How serious is the situation in Kerala? How many casualties have been reported?
Since May 29, when the monsoon arrived in the state, a total of 264 people have been killed, the government said Thursday, adding that of them, 75 people have been killed in the last one week. Twelve out of 14 districts in the state are on high alert, with central and northern districts among the most affected. Particularly, the hilly districts of Idukki and Wayanad have contributed the most casualties due to multiple landslips.
A total of 37 out of the states 42 dams and reservoirs have been opened to drain out excess water from the catchment areas. Shutters of dams like Cheruthoni, one of the largest arch dams on the continent, were opened for the first time in 26 years, releasing lakhs of litres into the Periyar which continues to remain swollen.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, CM Vijayan and Home Minister Rajnath Singh have all noted the gravity of the situation, promising to work shoulder-to-shoulder to rescue and provide relief to all those affected by raging floods and landslides. As an emergency measure, the Centre released Rs 100 cr for flood relief efforts.
How much rainfall has Kerala received this monsoon?
According to the India Meteorological Department, from June 1 to August 16, Kerala has received cumulative rainfall of 2227.26 mm, projecting an excess of 37.49% rainfall this monsoon. A normal course of monsoon is in the range of +/-19%, thus signifying that this has been an extraordinary monsoon for the state.
Idukki in central Kerala, a hilly terrain, received a cumulative rainfall of 3211.06 mm, pointing to excess rainfall of 83.59%. Six other districts, Ernakulam, Palakkad, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam and Malappuram have all recorded excess rainfall of over 40% from normal course.
How has been the participation of central and armed forces in relief efforts?
CM Vijayan said Thursday that 52 teams of Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Fire Force and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were actively engaging in relief efforts in the state at the moment with more units expected to be deployed soon. 12 columns of the Army, four Air Force helicopters and five diving teams of the Navy are involved in rescuing those from stranded and swollen areas.
Several low-lying areas in districts like Ernakulam, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Thrissur and Kannur are being serviced by the armed forces. People stranded on higher floors of their homes and apartments are currently being airlifted with the help of the Air Force. NDRF teams are involved in evacuating those residing in landslip-prone areas.
So how did most districts get flooded?
A combination of heavy, persistent rainfall, particularly over last week, and the release of thousands of cumec of water into rivers like the Periyar and Chalakudy River from dams and reservoirs are responsible for the flooding of low-lying areas. Before the dam shutters were opened, adequate warnings were relayed by the district administrations to those residing along the river banks to move to higher areas. Authorities have no other option but to release the water at regular intervals from dams as the catchment areas were reporting water levels rising to the highest storage value.
Where are the people, whose homes are flooded, being given shelter?
A total of 1,067 relief camps have been set up across Kerala, providing shelter to more than 1.5 lakh people. These camps have been set up mostly at government schools, colleges, anganwadis, churches and auditoriums. Local private organisations and panchayats are supplying essential food items and water to these relief camps. Three meals a day, sufficient water, clean toilet facilities, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and mats are being given to the inmates. People are allowed to return to their homes after officials formally make sure that their homes are rid of water.
How affected are the public transportation systems in Kerala?
Services at the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), a pivotal point for air travellers in central Kerala, have been suspended till Saturday after parts of the airport were flooded. Efforts are underway to drain out the storm waters. Both the Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode airports are handling most of the flights into the state.
Railway services were not affected until Thursday. Today, major sections between Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur have been affected with railway tracks flooded in several areas. Train services on the railway bridge over the Periyar have been suspended after the river’s water level rose.
Torrential rainfall since Tuesday has flooded major roads and national highways in Ernakulam, particularly near Aluva. Streams connected to the Periyar flooding above its levels have led to water collecting on roads. Bus and auto rickshaw services have also been affected. Due to the flooding of the train yard at Muttom, Kochi Metro services have been suspended on Thursday.
Has the Kerala government announced ex gratia compensation for the flood-affected?
The Kerala government will disburse Rs 4 lakh to the kin of the dead while Rs 10 lakh will be offered to those who have lost their homes completely. Each person, forced to be shifted to a relief camp, will be given Rs 3800 as an emergency compensation amount.
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