Kerala and its ongoing flood disaster

The past few days my attention has been drawn to an item of news (not covered too well by UK media) where I have a special interest. The story is developing all the time; the following links explain:

  1. Kerala floods: death toll reaches 164 in worst monsoon in nearly a century
  2. Kerala Floods Thousands Will Die Tonight If Help Doesn’t Come
  3. India monsoon floods ‘kill more than 300’ in Kerala

It is strange to think that a month ago I was in Kerala and while the monsoon season had begun there was little indication of the disaster that was soon to befall, and as I write has not yet been fully averted. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes and humanitarian efforts to take care of the victims now in full sway, with many involved in the relief efforts. Like many of my Malayalee (inhabitants of Kerala) friends I watch with consternation as events unfold. While there is an opportunity to give money e.g. through the Kerala state government relief fund or for people in my town channeled through local Malayalee association, we feel powerless. While one may want to speculate and pontificate, and while we may want to do everything possible to help, for those far away this is a time to pray and this is what I shared earlier:

kerala3

As FB friends are becoming aware, the State of Kerala in South West India is experiencing severe flooding, covering a large portion of the state, due to very heavy recent rainfall and having had to open most of the dams. This has had a devastating affect including 100 lives lost in the past 8 days and many more severely affected. Many have lost homes and some are stranded e.g. seated on roof tops hoping for rescue, lack basics of food, water etc., communications are down and there have been power cuts, all of which have significant ramifications. Not only are there concerns over rising water levels but also of landslides in hilly areas. I have a particular interest because of my large extended family and many friends who live in Kerala. As is invariably the case, we watch with consternation and family matters aside (most have checked in safe and the worse we know is of material loss and being stranded and loss of livestock), here are some items for prayer (I am not much into pleading for money to be sent to whoever, as I am not sure where best, what is needed etc., although no doubt there will be a need):

1. The rescue services including the military that they do their job
2. The rain to stop and those in danger areas including landslides
3. People who need rescuing
4. Communications restored (airport and railways and many roads closed)
5. Hospitals caring for the sick and in need of basic supplies
6. Protection of livestock
7. Food, water, medicines to be sent to those who need help
8. The community to come together (in recent months there has been religious tensions)
9. Dealing with the aftermath e.g. disease and restoring basic services
10. The mammoth rebuilding operation

Update 17/08/18 1400 BST: I am thanking God that all of my family members are safe. I believe the rain has stopped and water levels beginning to recede (although further heavy rainfalls are predicted). The efforts to bring relief are beginning to bear fruit but now there are many displaced people from their homes, although most have food and shelter. The death toll has risen, including due to landslides. The situation remains critical”.

When I arrived in India for the first time in 1983, Kerala (sometimes referred to as God’s own country because of its natural beauty) was the first place, outside Bombay my port of arrival, I visited. I have been to India on numerous occasions since and usually most of my time is spent in Kerala. I have visited many parts, although my main destination is around Trivandrum city, where I have many family and friends. Because of its geographical features, e.g. inland waterways and dams, it is more susceptible to the sort of disaster we are now seeing, even though nothing like this has occurred for over 100 years. One of the features of Kerala is its high educational attainment but because it is relatively economically backward a number of its residents work abroad, including in my own home town. It is a place of diversity in religion and politics. In recent months there has been added tension caused in those areas.

There is little doubt there have been many human tragedies as a result of the flooding but equally many stories of human kindness. While it is hoped the worst is over, one cannot be sure. Besides the ongoing relief effort to make people safe and secure there will be a monumental rebuilding effort needed. My thoughts and prayers go out to the people living in Kerala and for those bringing relief. My hope is that something good will come out of this disaster.

Update 20/08/18

Changes are happening quickly. The good news is that across the state, which has widely been affected, water levels have mainly receded and people stranded or unaccounted for have been rescued and are now reported as safe, although some are still missing and presumed dead. While there could be more rain, it has mainly held of. Over a million people have had to vacate their homes to stay with friends and family or in one of the 3000 relief camps. The clear up and rebuild operations will be enormous but the immediate focus is ensuring people are safe and provided with basic necessities. While following the initial shock there has been evidence of political and religious squabbling and of looting and exploitation and spreading of disinformation, the main thing that has impressed me is how people from all sectors of society have come together in order to help compassionately, often in extraordinary and innovative ways.

There have been many examples of acts of human kindness and heroism. Besides the military, unexpected groups like lorry drivers and government officials have played important roles in helping creating calm and cooperation and helping the needy. I was touched by the efforts of certain fisherman, who generally live quite poorly but whose expertise and boats have played an important part in the rescue efforts. While members of my extended family have reported in safely many have been affected e.g. loss of or damage to property and livestock. In Cochin one family member found  while her home is intact she is stranded as transport links are down but most members of her church have had their homes destroyed, but she is able to help and like so many be supportive of her needy neighbours. One district, Chengannur has been particularly affected by the floods and it is there we have friends and family living (two have not contacted the last two days – update just reported safe). We watch as developments unfold and do so with prayerful anticipation.

Three recent (from many) recent stories and reports are:

  1. Kerala floods live updates: Centre declares disaster ‘calamity of severe nature’
  2. Kerala floods LIVE: Devastation to cost the state Rs 20,000 cr, 40,000 crore hectares of crops destroyed, says CM
  3. Kerala Floods: This Actor Postponed Wedding To Help With Rescue Ops. Details From Co-Star Richa Chadha
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