New Delhi, Aug 13, 2019 : The southwest monsoon’s trail of destruction continued to claim lives across states including West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, with at least 227 reported dead in floods, lightning, and landslides around the country, Hindustan Times reported.
The death toll in Kerala, the worst affected state in the south, rose to 80, even as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a red category warning — an alert for authorities to kick into rescue and rehabilitation mode — for Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and east Rajasthan. Heavy to very heavy rainfall was also predicted for Kerala, Karnataka, Konkan region, Odisha, and Vidarbha region of Maharashtra on August 13 and 14.
In Dehradun’s Chamoli district, landslides triggered by heavy rains killed six people, including an infant, who were buried under the rubble of their damaged homes. Two buildings were swept away by the flooded Chuflagad river and roads to Himalayan shrines were blocked by landslip debris. The Ganga in Haridwar and Kali in Pithoragarh district are flowing a few notches below the danger mark. In Jammu and Kashmir, three members of a family died after they came under a boulder during a landslide in Resai district.
As many as 16 people, including four farmers, have been killed by lightning in five districts, including Purulia, East Midnapore and Hooghly, in West Bengal since Sunday.
In Gujarat, the Indian Air Force rescued nearly 125 people stranded on a road washed away by floods due to heavy rainfall in Kutch district of Gujarat, officials said on Monday.
Several parts of Gujarat, including Saurashtra and Kutch regions, received heavy rainfall in the last few days. Nearly 31 have died in rain-related incidents in Gujarat in the last four days.
In Karnataka, where the water has begun to recede from many flood-affected areas due to a let up in rains, the death toll stood at 48 on Monday, even as the flood waters of the Tungabadra river entered the ground level of the UNESCO world heritage site in Hampi.
In Kerala, officials retrieved more bodies from landslide-hit areas of Malappuram and Wayanad, taking the toll up to 80 on Monday, even as the state disaster management authority pegs the number of missing persons at 58. Incessant rains in the past four days have caused 80 landslides and displaced more than 300,000 people. Though no red alert was sounded in any part of Kerala, the IMD’s prediction of an upcoming low-pressure in Bay of Bengal which will result in heavy to very heavy rainfall in the state has left many worried about the impact on ongoing rescue operations.
According to preliminary estimates given by Kerala agriculture minister VS Sunil Kumar, more than 18,000 hectares of crop has been lost affecting about 81,000 farmers and resulting in a total estimated loss of more than ₹800 crore.
Concluding his two-day visit, Congress MP from Wayanad Rahul Gandhi said, “We are all with you in this hour of crisis and I call upon not just Congress workers, but all the people to work to ease the suffering of the people. You don’t have to worry about your future as we will help you rebuild your lives.”
The Left criticised the Centre for neglecting Opposition-run governments where disasters have occurred. On Monday, a statement issued by the politbureau stated, “Home minister Amit Shah had an aerial survey of flood-hit areas of Karnataka and Maharashtra on Sunday but he deliberately skipped most affected Kerala.”
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Karnataka, where 48 people have died and 581,000 displaced due to flooding in large parts of the state since August 1, former prime minister Deve Gowda wrote a letter to the Centre urging them to release Rs5,000 crore for relief work.
“For the present, the total damage to both public and private property including damage to infrastructure approximately could be assessed at ₹10,000 crore (...) I have not seen such unprecedented destruction to both human lives and properties in my six decades political career,” he wrote.
On Sunday, Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa said that he asked the centre for interim relief of ₹3,000 crore in view of the damage that he estimated might be around ₹30,000-40,000 crore.
According to government estimates, 80 taluks spread across 17 districts are currently affected.
All however was not gloom and doom, with farmers living downstream from the Cauvery river rejoicing as reservoirs, including the Stanley Reservoir in Mettur, Tamil Nadu and the Krishna Raja Sagara reservoir near Mysuru in Karnataka were almost full on Monday, after several months of severe drought. Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palanisamy, who came under fire from the Opposition for refusing to accept a water train from Kerala during the height of water shortage in the state in June, will be present for the release of water from the Mettur dam on Tuesday.
A video of a policeman carrying two children on his shoulders through flood waters at Kalyanpur village in Gujarat’s Morbi district, where 42 people, including 17 children, were stranded, went viral on social media. Another video that showed a 10-foot long crocodile taking refuge on the rooftop of a house in flood-hit Karnataka’s Raibag town also sent social media into a tizzy. The reptile swept away by the swirling waters of the Krishna river in spate had landed on top of the asbestos roof of a fully submerged house about 90km north of Belagavi city. It swam away before the rescue team arrived.
On Monday, at least a dozen of state highways were opened up for vehicular traffic, allowing the transportation of essential commodities like food grain, vegetables, gas cylinders and money for ATMs, after eight days of blockade.
Private vehicles will be allowed on the Pune-Bengluru National Highway from Tuesday, authorities stated.
The Maharashtra government placed prohibitory orders on flood-hit Kolhapur between August 12 and 24, drawing criticism from opposition, who said that this will hamper rescue and relief operations run by volunteer groups.
The order, issued by Resident Deputy Collector Sanjay Shinde, said that the torrential rains and mega floods since the past 15 days in the district has severely affected normal life, which may result in a disruption of law and order.
As many as 474,000 people in five districts in western Maharashtra are living in 596 temporary shelters, and the death toll in five affected districts now stands at 43, with three persons missing.
“A committee which will include chief engineer of the state irrigation department and other officials is being constituted to regularly monitor the release of water from the dams,” Pune divisional commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar said, adding that such a mechanism was not in place.
The South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers, and People (SANDRP) released a detailed report stating that mismanagement in the release of water from various dams, including the Koyna, Warna and Radhanagari, resulted in the floods in Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli.
After 10 years, villages along Krishna river in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were put on high alert after heavy inflow in the river from Karnataka and Maharasthra.
The IMD issued a warning indicating heavy to very heavy rains in ghat sections of western Maharashtra over the next two days, encompassing Pune, Satara and Kolhapur.