Kerala floods prove worst calamity in 100 years to hit the state

1Kerala is currently living its worst nightmare. It has seen an unprecedented calamity this monsoon, the likes of which it has not seen in 100 years. Incessant rains and flooding has wiped out villages and rendered people homeless overnight. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan described the floods as "something that has never happened before in the history of Kerala" and placed some of the blame on neighbouring Tamil Nadu for not releasing excess water from the State-operated Mullaperiyar dam, which worsened the situation.

Kerala received heavy monsoon rainfall on the mid evening of August 8 resulting in dams filling to capacity; in the first 24 hours of rainfall the state received 310 mm (12 in) of rain. Almost all dams have been opened since the water level has risen close to overflow level due to heavy rainfall, flooding local low-lying areas. For the first time in the state's history, 35 of its 42 dams have been opened. Over 445 people died, 15 went missing within a fortnight, while at least 280,679 people were somehow evacuated and moved out safely  from areas including Chengannur, Pandanad, Aranmula, Aluva, Chalakudy, Kuttanad and Pandalam. All 14districts of the state were placed on high alert.  According to the Kerala government, one-sixth of the total population of Kerala had been directly affected by the floods and related incidents. The Union government had declared it a Level 3 Calamity or 'Calamity of a severe nature'

Thirty-five out of the forty-two dams within the state were opened for the first time in history. All five overflow gates of the Idukki Dam were opened at the same time, for the first time in 26 years.  Heavy rains in Wayanad and Idukki had caused severe landslides and have left the hilly districts isolated. The situation was regularly monitored by the Prime Minister and the National Crisis Management Committee coordinated the rescue and relief operations.

Though it is difficult to attribute a single event to climate change, its possible role in causing the heavy rainfall event over Kerala cannot be easily discounted. Recent research indicates that rising temperatures have led to huge fluctuations in the monsoon winds carrying the moisture from the Arabian Sea, resulting in heavy-to-extreme rains over the Western Ghats and central India.

A state official told AFP that 370 people had died, while it has reported that 33,000 people had been rescued. The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority has placed the state in a red alert as a result of the intense flooding. A number of water treatment plants were forced to cease pumping water, resulting in poor access to clean water, especially in northern districts of the state. Over 5,645 relief camps had been opened at various locations to accommodate the flood victims. It is estimated that 1,247,496 people found shelter in such camps. The flooding affected hundreds of villages, destroyed an estimated 10,000 km (6,200 mi) of roads and thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed. The Government cancelled Onam celebrations, whose allocated funds have been reallocated to relief efforts

On August 15, Cochin International Airport, India's fourth busiest in terms of international traffic, and the busiest in the state, suspended all operations until 29 August, following runway flooding. Many schools throughout the state have been closed, and tourists have been dissuaded or banned from some districts due to safety concerns. The Kochi Metro closed briefly on August 16, and began offering free service to aid those affected by the flooding. Due to heavy rain and rising water levels the southern railway has suspended

train services on Thiruvananthapuram-Kottayam-Ernakulam and Ernakulam-Shoranur-Palakkad sections.

Over 80% of the state had been cut off from power supply. An orange weather alert had been issued in 11 of the 14 districts of the state.

Religious

Trekking in the Hindu pilgrimage centre of Sabrimala was stopped due to the overflow of the nearby Pamba River.

5Rescue Effort

Being instructed by the Cabinet Secretary, Senior officers of Defence Services, NDRF, NDMA and Secretaries of Civilian Ministries conducted meetings with Kerala Chief Secretary. Following the decisions taken during these meetings, the Centre launched massive rescue and relief operations. In one of the largest rescue operations, 40 helicopters, 31 aircraft, 182 teams for rescue, 18 medical teams of defense forces, 58 teams of NDRF and 7 companies of Central Armed Police Forces were pressed into service along with over 500 boats and necessary rescue equipments. Totally, 60,000 people are rescued from marooned areas and was shifted to relief camps.

Additionally, 52 rescue teams of central forces including units of the Indian Army and the Indian Navy and state governed forces like Kerala Police and Kerala Fire and Rescue Services assisted the civilian administration in rescue work and restoration. In addition to the 10 teams of the National Disaster Response Force, four additional teams were airlifted from Guntur and Arakkonam to assist the Ernakulam district administration. Union Minister for Home Affairs Rajnath Singh conducted an aerial survey of Idukki and Ernakulam districts along with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Fisherman from Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts took part in the rescue operations with their boats and rescued several who were trapped in their homes by rising waters. The Kerala Government announced financial aid in return for their support and effort in the rescue mission.

Mananthavady and Vythiri in the hilly Wayanad district have been totally cut-off, with roads washed away.

According to the latest official figures, more than 800,000 people have been lodged in over 4,000 relief camps across 14 districts. On August 19, the state's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan vowed "to save even the last person stranded.

Animals Dead

Sally Varma of Humane Society International arranged for animals to be rescued and transported to special shelters that housed affected animals. Social media has been used to highlight the rescue of multiple animals – dogs, cats, goats, cows, cattle, ducks and snakes, with animal feed and medicine transported to affected areas.

A worker with the Humane Society International spoke out against the tethering and leaving of pets that occurred. "That became a problem. So many tethered animals just drowned. These animals are natural swimmers, and it is better to keep them free so they can swim to higher ground." According to government records more than 8,000 cattle, calves and buffaloes, 3,297 goats, and 47 dogs have died due to the flooding.

The District Collector of Malappuram, and its Chief of Police have instructed the police force to save any animal that they encounter during rescue operations.

Relief and monetary aid Received

4Government, NGOs and NPOs

The Government of Kerala started a donation website for flood victims.  As of 27 August 2018, ₹674 crore (US$98 million) was collected from the public.

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi announced a sum of ₹500 crore (US$73 million) as interim relief for Kerala on 18 August 2018. This is in addition to ₹100 crore(US$15 million) announced by the Home Minister on 12 August 2018.The central government also said in its press release that this ₹600 crore (US$87 million) is only the advance assistance and that additional funds will be released by the NDRF when an inter-ministerial team visits again and assesses the damage.

European Union has announced an assistance of ₹1.53 crore (US$220,000) in aid funding to the Indian Red Cross Society for providing relief to flood-affected people in Kerala.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE's Armed Forces HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan verbally offered an amount of ₹700 crore(US$100 million) for assistance towards relief works. However, the spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs of India made it clear that in line with the existing foreign policy, India won't be able to accept such funds from a foreign government. Later, the UAE Ambassador to India declared that officially, there was no announcement on donation of ₹700 crore (US$100 million) to the State of Kerala.

Extending condolences to the families of the deceased, Qatar Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani offered a sum of ₹34.5 crore (US$5.0 million) for the relief works.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, while expressing solidarity in his tweet, offered to provide humanitarian   n assistance.

The governments of Maldives and Thailand have also offered aid and support.

The Israeli humanitarian organization IsraAid sent relief workers to distribute supplies and assess needs for clean water, sanitation, and psychological care.

Many Members of Parliament, Members of State Legislative Assemblies and Councils, civil servants and government employees across the country have also donated their one month's salary and/or allowances towards Kerala Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.

3Chief Ministers of almost all the states and Union Territories have pledged monetary aid from their respective state funds in addition to dispatch of various relief materials such as potable water, blankets, packed food, rice, water-purifying machines, daily-use and healthcare products. Monetary contributions are listed below:

Corporate and Individuals

Google, Facebook and e-commerce websites Amazon, Flipkart, BigBasket, Airtel Payments Bank, Paytm and Tez have also provided an option for donation for relief efforts on their respective platforms.

Major oil companies of India such as BPCL, HPCL, IOCL and others have collectively donated ₹25 crore (US$3.6 million) to the Kerala Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund, in addition to providing relief materials and helping in rescue operations.

Reliance Foundation chairperson Nita Ambani has announced a donation of ₹21 crore (US$3.1 million) to the Kerala Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund, besides relief materials worth around ₹50 crore (US$7.3 million).

Adani Foundation the CSR, sustainability and community outreach arm of the Adani Group, has committed to provide ₹25 crore (US$3.6 million) for immediate relief and another ₹25 crore (US$3.6 million) is earmarked for rehabilitation and resettlement.

Star India, its parent company 21st Century Fox and their employees have collectively donated ₹5 crore (US$730,000).

Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has donated ₹1 crore (US$150,000) to the Kerala Chief Minister's relief fund on behalf of an Instagram fan. He also sent his team for relief activity in Kerala. Vidya Balan, Siddharth Roy Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Alia Bhatt, Siddharth Suryanarayan, Rishi Kapoor, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Akshay Kumar and Resul Pookutty are others from film industry to have contributed to Kerala Chief Minister's relief fund.

KP Hussain, chairman of Fathima Healthcare Group, has donated ₹1 crore (US$150,000) to the Kerala Chief Minister's relief fund, and another ₹4 crore (US$580,000) for medical relief aid.

Doctor, entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil will donate ₹50 crore (US$7.3 million) for the relief of flood victims by setting up a project to fight housing, education and healthcare issues.

UAE-based Indian businesses have donated ₹18.85 crore (US$2.7 million) so far to Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation's relief fund. Among those to donate were Indian businessmen Yusuff Ali M.A., chairman and managing director of LuLu Group International, and Dr. B. R. Shetty, founder and chairman of NMC Health.

Indian cricket team captain, Virat Kohli, dedicated his team's test win over England at Trent Bridge to the flood victims of Kerala. The Indian team is planning to donate match fees for Kerala flood victims

Response Received towards the Flood Relif

At a press conference on 11 August, Chief Secretary Tom Jose said, "Things are well under control. The government is on top of the situation."Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted an aerial survey and offered federal support to Kerala.

2International

The United States embassy urged its citizens to avoid travelling to the affected areas. The UAE embassy in India issues warning for its citizens regarding the flood. The embassy also said that the weather agencies in India have given warnings regarding heavy rain fall in the southern state of Kerala. The President of UAE His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has instructed the formation of a national emergency committee to provide relief assistance to people affected by flash floods in the Indian state of Kerala. According to Sheikh Khalifa's instructions, the committee will be chaired by the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), and include representatives from the UAE's humanitarian organisations. Imran Khan, the newly elected Prime minister of Pakistan expressed his grief at the loss of lives in Kerala floods, and he said his country was ready to provide any humanitarian assistance if needed

There was a controversy regarding an alleged offer of US$100 million from the Government of the UAE. It was also alleged that India refused to accept this offer. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan argued that the existing policy did not require India to reject aid from a foreign government. Ministry of External Affairs of India clarified that they received no such offer for financial help from any country. Under the existing foreign policy, assistance cannot be sought from foreign governments,but if any country offers assistance it may be accepted after an assessment. However, NGOs and PIOs worldwide can donate for the relief efforts. Subsequently, the UAE Ambassador to India declared that officially, there was no announcement on donation to the State of Kerala.

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