The South Indian state of Kerala on the Malabar Coast, known for its lush landscape, coconut trees, and inspiring backwaters, has been hit with unusually high amounts of rainfall during this year's monsoon season, causing severe floods and humanitarian crises in the region.
As of August 17, the death toll has risen to 324, with over 200,000 people displaced and 14 districts placed on high alerts. At least 350 relief camps have been opened at various locations to accommodate the flood victims. Many educational and other institutes across the state have opened to accommodate the flood victims.
While Kerala officials continue with rescue and relief efforts, Indian citizens have activated social media and IT strategies to reach those in dire need of support.
Kerala flood update:
82,442 people were rescued today
Death toll from May 29- Aug 17: 324
Death toll from Aug 8- Aug 17: 164
People in relief camps: 3,14,391
2094 relief camps opened across Kerala
40,000 state police officials + 3200 fire force officials working on ground
— Shilpa Nair (@NairShilpa1308) August 17, 2018
— Reshma Vidyadharan (@ReshmaVidya) August 17, 2018
On August 15, India's seventh largest airport, Cochin International, has suspended all operations until August 26 due to completely submerged runways. The southern railway has suspended train services on Thiruvananthapuram-Kottayam-Ernakulam and Ernakulam-Shoranur-Palakkad sections as water levels subsume railway lines. The Kochi metro service has also been suspended.
India's rising flood waters
Monsoons in India have worsened over the last 15 years according to one study done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Recent data reveals patterns of “shorter bursts of rain in higher amounts.” Rising land and sea temperatures may also explain increased rainfall.
During this year's monsoon season, powerful rains arrived with more force, filling dams to capacity. Nearly all 42 gates in the state of Kerala have opened, flooding local low-lying areas that have led to casualties.
On Tuesday, August 14, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan declared, “This is the worst monsoon disaster since 1924.”
Netizens demand better media coverage and awareness
Indian netizens have called for more coverage in local and international media, complaining that the state of Kerala lacks sufficient disaster management resources:
Please share: Kerala, India has suffered a major flood but the story isn’t receiving international coverage. Over 54,000 people are homeless and the situation is dire. Let’s try to build awareness of this tragedy. #KeralaFloodRelief pic.twitter.com/2hMg6Wsk0J
— nerdy (@nerdyasians) August 17, 2018
While Kerala reels under the worst flood in history, the priorities of the Modi govt are clear: 1484Cr on PM's travel, 4300Cr on Ads, 3600 Cr on Shivaji statue, 2989 Cr on Patel statue, 4200 Cr on Kumbh Mela & only 100 Cr for Kerala flood relief! pic.twitter.com/fu6QlyLx57
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) August 17, 2018
More than 95 people have lost their life in #KeralaFlood Lakhs have been displaced. Modi and his TV channels do not care. You will know why if you too belong to a non-hindi-speaking state. These states don’t exist. They don’t matter. Discrimination. Sad reality of India. pic.twitter.com/sBaLdm0pCc
— Voice Of Ram (@VORdotcom) August 17, 2018
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Kerala to assess the situation on August 17, 2018.
— Alphons KJ (@alphonstourism) August 16, 2018
Educator T T Sreekumar wrote on Facebook:
Kerala is fighting it almost all alone, the severest and worst flood ever for last 100 years. If national and international agencies continue to show indifference, it will be a pity. But it is left to them to decide. The spirit of unity, willpower, compassion, and dedication of thousands of volunteers belonging to state and non-state agencies in Kerala are indescribable. Wherever possible they have sought and used whatever assistance that was forthcoming from the Naval and army units. Hundreds of people I personally know, people who are my friends, and several thousand others, have dedicated themselves to the rescue and relief operations, online and offline. Some of them have not slept for days together. The physical and material loss is enormous, the state's infrastructure is reduced to rubble. Crops and livestock are almost destroyed. But the loss of human life is kept to the minimum because Kerala is now an ocean of mutual love, care, and mindfulness. We have ourselves and we shall overcome.
Keralites step up to coordinate rescue efforts
Kerala residents at home and abroad are working to connect rescue operations with those in dire circumstances. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Kerala and the Kerala government’s IT department has partnered with thousands of volunteer developers to design and run keralarescue.in, a website working to connect all stakeholders.
To ensure transparency, their codebase is hosted on GitHub, an open source platform. Others are inputting Whatsapp emergency messages into Google Docs like this one from Chennai Cares:
Netizens have turned to Whatsapp to relay calls for help. The Kerala State disaster fund released a list of WhatsApp and landline numbers to contact for assistance.
Videos on Facebook describing how to mark one’s location in Google have been shared widely. Yet residents face uncertainty now that all five of the Idukki Dam Gates have opened for the first time in history. One man makes a desperate video plea as he stands neck-deep in the water on the second floor of his Kerala home.
— Arun Janardhanan (@arunjei) August 16, 2018
— Chaaipani (@chaaipani) August 17, 2018
The Times of India is providing Live Updates to follow this developing story.