The incessant rain and flooding in Kerala has unleashed a crisis of massive proportions. Even as State government personnel, volunteers and military personnel work round the clock to rescue the thousands stranded in flood-hit areas, there has been some light at the end of the tunnel as the rain is expected to subside slightly over the coming days.
The floods are a by-product of the most intense bout of rain in the State since 1924. Kerala, on an average year, receives the maximum rain among the bigger States.
However, this year, it has received an excess of 42% over its average for the time period between June 1 and August 18, recording a whopping 2,345 mm.
Idukki district, which is among the worst affected in the floods has received 92% excess rainfall with districts like Pathanamthitta, Palakkad, Malappuram, and Ernakulam receiving an excess of between 40-60% rain.
The rainfall has been all the more intensive in the week ending August 15 with the State as a whole receiving 252% more than the average and Idukki district alone receiving 438% excess rainfall.
The intensity of the rain in this short span of time has been a major factor in the flooding as it has applied a huge amount of stress on the water storage mechanisms in the State, especially dams.
The Hindu has reported that the Idukki and the Idamalayar dams were only about 50% full in July. However, the intensity of the rain in the subsequent days led to water levels rising at an alarming rate, after which water had to be released from the dams. For instance, in the Idukki dam, the water level on August 17 was 2402 ft as opposed to the Full Reservoir Level of 2403 ft. The situation in other dams in the area wasn't too different.
Thus, many of the areas that have been substantially affected by the floods are on the banks of rivers which have overflowed due to the release of water from the dams. Among the key areas affected include Chengannur (Alappuzha district), which is by the Pamba river, various areas in Pathanamthitta district, also by the Pamba river, Aluva (Ernakulam district), which is on the banks of the Periyar and
Chalakudy in Thrissur district which is by the Chalakudy river.
However, it is important to note that the careful monitoring and release of water from the dams has prevented what could have been a much greater tragedy.
The human toll has been immense with the number of deaths touching 357. Over 200 have died in the last 10 days alone. 40,000 hectares of agriculture has been destroyed. More than 1,000 houses have been completely wrecked and more than 26, 000 houses have suffered partial damage.
Nearly 14,000 crore worth of damage has taken place to roads.
The transportation sector has been seriously affected too. The Cochin airport has been shut down till August 26. Connectivity has been seriously hit with choke points emerging at key national highways including NH 544 and NH 66. Flooding in Aluva has restricted access to the key city of Kochi and the possibility of traveling to Coimbatore via Palakkad has also been affected.
Kerala will take a long while to recover from this disaster. However, the concerted and committed efforts by the thousands of State government personnel and common people, along with the aid and money pouring in from across the globe provide hope that together, even a calamity of this scale can be overcome.