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| Last Updated:09/10/2018

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Kerala Floods 2018 (Source: Times of India, Disaster Management Authority)

                  Beginning in July 2018, severe floods affected the south Indian state of Kerala, due to unusually high rainfall during the monsoon season. It was the worst flooding in Kerala in nearly a century. Over 483 people died, 14 are missing. At least a million people were evacuated, mainly from Chengannur, Pandanad, Edanad, Aranmula, Kozhencherry, Ayiroor, Ranni, Pandalam, Kuttanad, Aluva, and Chalakudy. All 14 districts of the state were placed on red 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 Indian government had declared it a Level 3 Calamity or “calamity of a severe nature” .It is the worst flood in Kerala after the great flood of 99 that happened in 1924.

 

                   Thirty-five out of the fifty-four 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 have caused severe landslides and have left the hilly districts isolated.

 

Rescue

 

                Being instructed by the Cabinet Secretary, senior officers of Defense 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. Dozens of helicopters dropped tonnes of food, medicine and water over areas cut off by damaged roads and bridges. Helicopters were also involved in airlifting people marooned by the flooding to safety.

 

             The fishermen from across Kerala were engaged in the flood rescue missions. According to the government’s estimate, a total of 4,537 from the fishermen community participated in the rescue operation with 669 fishing boats. They managed to rescue more than 65,000 people from various districts. According to estimates, seven boats were completely destroyed, while 452 were partially destroyed.

 

 

  Causes

 

                    The Indian state of Kerala receives some of India’s highest rainfall during the monsoon season. However, during 2018 the state experienced its highest level of monsoon rainfall in decades. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), there was 2346.3 mm of rainfall, instead of the average 1649.55 mm. Kerala received heavy monsoon rainfall which is about 256% more than the usual rain fall in Kerala, 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 are 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 54dams have been opened.

 

                      The unprecedented rainfall was caused by a spell of low pressure over the region. There was a perfect confluence of the southwest monsoon wind system and the two low-pressure systems that formed over the Bay of Bengal and Odisha. The low-pressure regions pull in the moist south-west monsoon winds, increasing their speed, as they then hit the Western Ghats, travel skywards, and form rain-bearing clouds.

 

NASA says Kerala floods due to cloud bands in Western Ghats

 

 

                  NASA, which tracked cloud bands over India using multiple satellites for measuring precipitation, has found that Kerala received 46.9 centimetre of weekly rainfall from August 13 to August 20 due to concentrated cloud bands that resulted in flooding. A video released by the agency on Wednesday provides an estimate of rainfall and shows the spread of the resulting severe flooding in Kerala, and parts of Karnataka. Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center experts wrote on their blog,

 

                “Rainfall accumulation in the week from August 13 to 20 showed two cloud bands of heavy rains across India. While the first band, which appeared much broader and extends across the northern part of the peninsula, received 120mm of rainfall on NorthWest and 350mm on east towards the Bay of Bengal. The second cloud band is heavily concentrated and intense near the southwest coast of India and the Western Ghats where onshore flow was enhanced by an area of low pressure embedded within the general monsoon.,” Rainfalls in the cloud band over southwest that covers Kerala and Karnataka was more than 250mm, and exceeded in the core area to more than 400mm. The maximum estimated value from IMERG (Integrated Multi Satellite Retrievals Globals Precipitation Measurement) was 469mm.

 

                 Dr K Nagaratna, Director Meteorological centre, Hyderabad, who anaysed Nasa's video, told TOI ,”Nasa has given figures of weekly rainfall. Heavy precipitation of clouds over the Western Ghats during the week resulted in flooding. The severity of southwest Monsoon cloud band is moreover Kerala and parts of Karnataka due to moisture aided from the Arabian Sea. Usually, this is the season during which west coast received the heaviest rainfall. The Southwest coast region remains wet during most of the monsoon,”

 

                 Nasa explained that the contributing factor to the heavy rains along southwest coast is the Western ghats.

 

              “Though much smaller than the Himalayas, Western Ghats parallel to the West Coast of India with many peaks over 6,500 feet. The Western Ghats enhance rainfall along the West Coast of India as they intercept the moisture-laden air being drawn in off the warm waters of the northern Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea as part of the monsoon circulation,” Nasa experts said.

 

Impact

 

             The state government has estimated a loss of Rs 20,000 crore, with Idukki, Malappuram, Kottayam and Ernakulam districts being the worst affected in the Kerala floods. Floods in the southern Indian state of Kerala killed more than 410 people. The government estimates about one lakh buildings, which includes people’s houses, have been damaged, over 10,000km of highways and roads and hundreds of bridges have been washed away, and crops in millions of hectares of land have been lost in the Kerala floods.

 

               Schools in all 14 districts of Kerala were closed and some districts have banned tourists because of safety concerns. Maintaining sanitation and preventing disease in relief camps housing more than 800,000 people was a significant challenge. Authorities also had to restore regular supplies of clean drinking water and electricity to the state’s 33 million residents.