Eid celebrations in various parts of the state on Monday was a low key affair, with rains and subsequent floods battering Kerala for the past few days. For the second year in a row, monsoon rains in the state have proven deadly for residents.
Last year, during the monsoon season, the world looked on as Kerala witnessed its worst floods in a century. For most Keralites, the extent of the flooding, the economic and infrastructural damage - and worst of all - the loss of lives was something that had never been witnessed ever before.
Nasa, at the time, released satellite images of what the state looked like before and after the floods. The images were false-color, which makes flood water appear dark blue while vegetation is bright green. Entire areas appear indundated.
Entire families lost, houses damaged, shops destroyed - life had to start over for many. While it was scary, Keralites - in the state and across the world - came together to help each other and the state, albeit battered and in need of constant reparation, survived the calamity. Tourism, one of the key economic drivers and worst-hit after the floods, picked up.
Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said the positive growth rate in tourist arrivals was achieved by a string of measures the government undertook swiftly to repair the damage caused by the floods to tourism infrastructure.
"We also launched an aggressive marketing strategy in both domestic and foreign markets to bolster our presence in the highly competitive tourism marketplace. The results are now there for everyone to see," he added.
After a span of nearly 10 months (May 2018 to March 2019 except December 2018), the arrival of international tourists registered a positive growth rate.
Overall, there was an increase of 14,654 tourists during April-June 2019 when compared with the figures of 1,67,666 registered during the corresponding period a year earlier.
Just as things were beginning to pick up and people had started putting together pieces of their life, the monsoon season this year brought another deluge.
To date, 77 people have died, with the toll expected to be much higher as entire localities are under mud and water. The state witnessed 80 landslides, two of which buried families alive - rescue operatives are fighting adverse weather and unfavourable conditions to pull out the bodies.
77 deathsin Kerala as per figures released on Monday
State Minister of Higher Education K. T. Jaleel, who reached Kavalapara on Monday to oversee the rescue operations, said that whatever is humanely possible is being done to recover the remaining bodies, that are suspected to be lying under the mud.
"Initially it was said 63 people in this area are missing, but later four of them were traced to their relatives' houses. Of the remaining 59, till now 14 bodies have been recovered. Today we have got more heavy earth moving equipments which will be engaged in recovering all the remaining bodies. No efforts will be spared at all," assured Jaleel.
Out of the situation, heart-wrenching stories have come up. In Kottakkunnu, the lifeless bodies of a mother (Geethu) and her infant child (Dhruv) recovered in a position holding their hands tightly left many a rescue personnel teary eyed. Sarath, the father is the only who escaped unhurt - he lost his wife, son and mother to the landslide. There are also stories of heroic rescue operations, a pregnat woman ziplined her way to safety with the help of locals and rescue personnel.
Noushad, a Kerala textile dealer in Kochi donated all dress material purchased for sale during Eid to the flood-affected people."I did the same when floods struck the state last year. I am doing it again. All that I have is given by the Almighty. I am feeling happy," Noushad is heard saying in the video, which went viral on the social media on Sunday. In the video he is seen carrying one of the sacks of dresses to a waiting vehicle.
The monsoon season, is a peak travel season for Malayali expats travelling to Kerala. Kerala has one of the highest expatriate populations in the Middle East region. A report by Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram, published in September 2018 states that 89.2 per cent of the total migrants from Kerala are in Middle Eastern countries.
Apart from travel disruptions due to the closure of Kochi airport (which resumed operations on Sunday), many expats’ families and those on vacation back home have been affected. Some expats are already actively participating in rescue and relief operations in flood-hit areas.
A Dubai organisation has sent its volunteers to flood-ravaged Kerala to help rehabilitate the homeless and provide them with basic supplies.
Heavy and consistent rains
According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Vadakara in Kozhikode recorded the highest rainfall in the state on Friday at 296 mm, Ottappalam in Palakkad received 286.2 mm, and Wayanad’s Vythiri witnessed 210 mm in a single day. The copious amounts of rainfall have been both intense and consistent this week alone.
The News Minute reported that the IMD data also showed a pattern of drought followed by excess. In Kerala, during this monsoon season from June 1 until August 7, the state recorded a deficit of 27 per cent, with 1078.6 mm rainfall against the normal of 1482.4 mm. However, between August 1 and August 7, the state saw 22 per cent excess rainfall.
Seven districts recorded excess rainfall over the first week of the month, with Palakkad recording a massive 80 per cent hike from the normal. Malappuram, Kozhikode, Thrissur and Wayanad have also witnessed a sharp departure from the normal rainfall, with excesses of 66, 53, 40 and 37 per cent respectively.
Rahul Gandhi in worst-hit Wayanad
Rahul Gandhi, the Congress MP from Wayanad, has assured all help to the people of his flood-hit constituency rebuild their lives.
"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," said Gandhi while addressing a relief camp at Thiruvampady here on Monday.
"Today is Eid and though I know that the people are distressed, I take this opportunity to wish all of you 'Eid Mubarak'. We will use the spirit of Eid to help the people who are suffering," said Gandhi.
He also told the gathering that he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday seeking help for flood-hit Kerala.
Incessant rain and the consequent floods have caused widespread damage in Kerala. The flood fury has left 77 dead and displaced over 2.87 lakh people, who have taken shelter in over 1,654 relief shelters set up across the state.
The maximum deaths, 18, have been reported from Wayanad, an area spread over three districts: Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram.
Rahul Gandhi arrived in the consituency on Sunday, and has been visiting relief camps here since Monday morning. He has so far visited camps at Nilambur in Malappuram district, Thiruvampady in Kozhikode district, Meppadi in Wayanad, besides attending review meetings called by the District Collectors of Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad. Gandhi also visited relief camps at Kavalapara, where a mudslide on Friday wiped out an entire village. Over 50 people are still feared trapped under the debris.
"Tomorrow, Rahul Gandhi will take stock of the situation in Kannur from where he will return to Delhi," said a staff attached to Chennithala, who is accompanying the former Congress president.
"People have told me that they have nowhere to go as their homes have been damaged fully or partially. I have spoken to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Prime Minister and have told them that the affected people here must be compensated as soon as possible. I am also working on a report on the flood situation," Gandhi told the media.
Three more days
Though there was no rain on Monday, the Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted more showers over the next three days.
"Starting tomorrow, rains will be heavy in Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Idukki till Wednesday, while on Thursday it's going to be isolated rains," said an IMD official, here.
According to preliminary estimates given by State Agriculture Minister V.S. 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 Rs 800 crore.
- With inputs from agencies