Tag Archives: flood in kerala

Kerala needs 10 times more fund for rehabilitation

During 1924 deluge, Mahatma Gandhi, collected Rs 6000 for Kerala. Through his publication, ‘Young India’ and ‘Navjivan’ he urged people to contribute to the “unimaginable” misery. People donated gold and their small saving for the relief work of “Mahapralayam of 99” (Malayalam year 1099).

How similar are the two deluges

The flood in 1924 was in Travancore, Idukki, Thrissur and Kottayam. The same places were flooded this time too. The similarity ends there.

The great deluge of Kerala, 2018, is greater than the great flood of 1924. There was massive destruction of infrastructure and property. While thousands of lives were lost in the flood 100 years ago, thanks to the rescue operation in 2018, the heavy casualty was avoided.

If the water reached 6 ft then, now it was more than 8 ft.

Unlike in 1924, now Kerala was on the path of rapid development. Kerala has the highest development index. There are IT parks and Startup hubs generating jobs which in turn improved the quality of life of the people. There are hi-tech buildings and roads that lead to every nook and cranny of Kerala.

Estimated loss

As the infrastructural development was at a rapid pace, the loss was also massive. 221 bridges were destroyed, 10000 km of road damaged and 3 lakh farmers were affected. The Government of Kerala has estimated a loss of more than $3 billion (Rs 20000 Crore).

Dream homes shattered

A house of one’s own is everyone’s dream. Kerala is famous for the huge mansions built along the length and breadth of the state. Even the poorest of the poor own a piece of land and a house in it. They make their houses as cosy as they can afford.

The flood completely destroyed 7000 houses, mostly of the poor. 50000 houses were partially damaged. Because the water gushed into the houses and engulfed the house for two-three days, some houses have become weak. They are not safe to stay.

Since furniture was not waterproof, most of the things were destroyed in the water. The water entered the cupboards, shelves and kitchen. Soiling the clothes, kitchen gadgets, cars, grocery and documents. They have nothing left other than the clothes they were wearing when they were rescued.

The earning of a lifetime was gone with the waters. Some of the houses were on loan. Now they need extra money to restore their homes. The houses are to be cleaned and sanitized. The electrical and plumbing lines are to be repaired. Books and uniforms are to be brought for children. Medicines were washed away.

Schools destroyed

In schools (especially government schools) the entire furniture, documents, books (including library books) and computers were spoiled. Restoring the schools is a mammoth task which includes labour and finance.

Hospitals damaged

Some hospitals were also flooded causing damage to the medical equipment and medicines.

Some still in camps

The people of Kuttanadu are still in camps. The water has not receded properly. They are basically hardworking farmers. With a little support, they will back to life very soon.

Tragedy strikes twice

A lady tailor’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack ten years back. Her youngest child was 6 months old at that time. She supported her family of three children and in-laws by stitching. After the flood, only the house is left. Everything inside the house was destroyed.

Her story represents the story of more than one million who were displaced or remained on the rooftop until the water receded.

A heart-warming story

One man who lost a few of his household items in the flood gave a cot and a mattress to his neighbour. Because when he had lost only something his neighbour lost everything.

Funds Kerala received so far

The Central Government has promised Rs 600 crore. The donations in the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund has crossed Rs 700 crore so far. In total Kerala has received around Rs 1300. And if the UAE Government provides Rs 700 crore, the aid will reach 2000. Still, the State needs ten times more funding for rehabilitation.

How the fund helps in rehabilitation

The fund will not only take care of the reconstruction of the roads and bridges but also help in rebuilding houses and rehabilitating the victims of the flood. The funds will also provide relief to the farmers. They had taken heavy loan hoping to reap a profitable harvest during Onam. Unfortunately, a few days before Onam, the crops were destroyed.

How to #HelpKerala

Massive fund for rehabilitation is required. What we can do is to donate generously to the Chief Minister’s Distress relief fund.

Donate Online

Account number: 67319948232
Bank: State Bank of India
Branch: City branch, Thiruvananthapuram
IFS Code: SBIN0070028
PAN: AAAGD0584M
Name of Donee: CMDRF

Providing material support

Almost every school and institution in India is sending material support to Kerala. You can contact the nearest schools and colleges to know if you can contribute in some way.

When the people are returning home from camps, empty-handed, they need the basic essentials to start their life once again. Some of the items that are required are:

  • Stationery for children (Notebook, pen, etc.)
  • Gas stove
  • Cookware
  • Nighties and Lungies (Unused)
  • Water resistant chappals
  • Rice and green gram
  • Mat (Chatai)

When warriors of sea rowed their boats on hills and rescued thousands

From now on we will call them ‘Our Fishermen’. This was not the situation until yesterday, Aug 18th, 2018.

Tsunami and Ockhi destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones. But we did not go to their midst to help them. Every other day there is a news of fishermen gone missing in the sea or dying.  We consider such incidents are a part of their occupation.

But when the Fishermen heard of the tragedy of their fellow human being. They came risking their lives. They brought their boat which is their source of livelihood. Their act of kindness gave us the assurance that humanity still exists.

When the waters were swallowing Kerala like a giant monster, the fire force, the police, the locals, the navy and many others came to the rescue of the victims. But there were rough terrains which hindered rescue operation.

The MLA of Chengannur, in Pathanamthitta, lamented that at least ten thousand people in his constituency will submerge in the waters if help does not reach in time.

Then something magical happened on Saturday, August 18th. Out of the 54,000 rescued on that day from Eranakulam district alone, 18000  were rescued by fishermen.

It was a spontaneous decision on the part of the fishermen to rise to the occasion. Someone in the fishermen’s Association suggested in the social media about the help fishermen can provide, and they acted on the spur of the moment.

They did not wait for any invitation or financial assistance from the Government. They arranged the fuel and trucks, on their own, to transport the boats to the affected area.

The Fishermen took their boats from their native places Ernakulam, Mallapuram, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Malappuram, Thrissur and Kannur. They took the country boats to Aluva, Chengannur, Chalakudy, Mala, Kodungallur, Kuttanad, North Paravur and other places.

The hills and the low lying areas were submerged in water. In some places, the water level was over 8ft. high. The furious water and the unpredictable terrains hindered the navy from carrying rescue operations in some areas. Thousands were feared trapped in submerged single storey buildings.

In 600 country vessels, 1400 warriors of sea formed teams and ventured into the ferocious water rowing against the current. The boat got damaged due to harsh terrain, low water and rough weather.

Sometimes the mobiles did not work. Some of them were bitten by the poisonous insects. They had to jump in waters, risking electrocution to rescue women, little children and elderly.

At one place the women could not climb into the boat. So a fisherman, Jaisal, provided his back to allow the women to get in the boat. He was an instant hero on the Social Media. But Jaisal says that compared to the daring rescue operations done by some of his friends, his act was nothing.

The tech-savvy younger generation fisher flock had a huge role to play. Some of them, who were students, decided to join the rescue operations. Some of them were successful in convincing their reluctant parents to take the boat for rescue and also to join and lead the team.

The fishermen have become overnight heroes in Kerala, just like firefighters became heroes on September 11 in the US. The fishermen are now called as Kerala’s Army and the superheroes of Kerala like Spiderman, Superman and Batman are superheroes of Hollywood.

Chris van Avery, a former American Sailor says in his blog “The Sea is a choosy mistress. She takes the men that come to her and weighs them and measures them. The ones she adores, she keeps; the ones she hates, she destroys. The rest she casts back to land. I count myself among the adored, for I am Her willing Captive.”

The fishermen are chosen men of the sea who they call Kadal Amma (Mother Sea). They are a community different from others. They are called the Mukkuvan (which means fishermen) and live as a community near the sea.  They have their own community rules and live one day at a time.

They were affected drastically by Tsunami and Ockhi. They venture into the sea for fishing even when there is a trawling ban.  Because fishing is their livelihood and they believe Kadal Amma will protect them.

The famous novel, Chemmeen, by Thakazhi Sivanakra Pillai,  in 1956, is about the fishermen community. The story is based on their belief that if the wife of the fisherman does not remain chaste when he is out in the sea, then kadalamma will kill him. The novel was made into a movie in 1965. The film was the first South Indian film to receive Indian President gold medal for a South Indian movie.

The fishermen are fearless and largehearted. During the shooting of Chemeen, it is said the fishing community opened their homes and gave boat for free for the shooting.

They are not dejected by the ups and downs in their life. When they go to sea sometimes they return empty handed and sometimes with a chagara (bounty).

They are non-materialistic. Remember the Nobel price winning Novel by Earnest Hemmingway ‘Man and the Sea’. In that story, a fisherman, who could not catch fish for 84 days, goes to the sea and catches a huge shark. He ties the shark to the boat as it was too huge to be put inside the boat. By the returned to the shore, he found that there only bones, the flesh was all eaten by small fish. He abandons the skeleton of the fish on the shores and goes home and sleeps.

The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, announced that Rs 3000 per day will be given to each member of the fishermen community. But Khais Mohammed, a fisherman, said is an FB post that they refused to take the money for saving lives.

Combatting natural elements is not new for Keralites. But, as mentioned in another post, Keralites were forgetting their skills to combat natures fury because of the invasion of technologies, consumerist culture and addiction to social media.

The ones (fishermen) who are even today sharpening their skill by battling the natural element, could save the rest of their fellow human beings.

People of Chengannur thanking the fishermen for saving their lives.

Many functions are arranged to honour the bravery of the Fishermen. They never waited for any accolades or rewards. On 20th the rescue work was over and from the 21st the returned to the sea for fishing

Their only demand is that their boats must be repaired. They say the repairing work will cost between 1-2 lakh for each boat.

Kerala needs help, situation worse than Thailand

This flood in Kerala is probably the biggest flood after Noah’s time. The flood is not getting over in a day or two. The calamity is continuing for over 40 days now. It is raining and flooding every District of Kerala and places that have never seen flood are getting inundated.

People are reluctant to leave their homes because they can’t believe that their beloved rivers will flood their house to kill them. Most of them are being uprooted from their homes where they have been staying for generations.

The fire force, the police, volunteer and hundreds of army men are working day and night. They are concentrating on areas which are adversely affected. Two days back they were concentrating on Idukki, Kochi and Pathanamthitta. Now they are concentrating on Chengennur and Chalakuddi.

But the issue is there are people stranded in other parts too. On the road from Parumala to Thiruvalla, I know at least four houses where people are stranded on the top floor. In one house there are 20 people. Imagine staying on the terrace with limited food, no electricity, no television,  and now no phone connectivity for four days. How do they defecate? I can’t imagine. Most houses have elderly staying alone. We are unable to contact them.

I think the navy and the army may not be able to reach these places because there are other places with bigger tragedies. But if these people are neglected for another day there will be tragedies like the one that happened in Chengannur (In Chengannur when the rescue workers reached a home a 90-year-old lady, her daughter and grandson were found dead).

What are the hurdles?

  • There is no forecast about which places will get flooded. On Friday the people in Pandalam were taken by surprise when the river started flowing through the town.
  • Flood water is entering some areas of Harippad and Mavelikara. People do not know how high the water will reach. They are waiting with their fingers crossed.
  • It is a relief to know that Pampa water is receding. So the stranded people on the Parumala-Thiruvallla route can relax. What if there is a heavy rain? Will the water level go up? We are worried. Ironically, the stranded people do not have any information about the water level. No information can be shared with them. Who can help them?
  • The relatives of those stranded in the Parumala-Thirvulla area thought that, in case of emergency, they can be rescued using boats. But there was disturbing News. A boat carrying 15 rescue workers in this area went missing yesterday at 5:00 PM and now their boat was found today morning in a secluded area with all the rescuers in bad health. They lost the way, or fuel got over, is not known. This incident shows boat rescue is not an easy option here.
  • All we want is the assurance that our relatives will be safe in their stranded places. We want them to have enough food and medicine. Who can provide us with this assurance?

We need more HELP

We need more expert help in Kerala. When there was a tragedy in Thailand the whole world came together. Right now Kerala needs the attention of the world.

Kerala is a State. Then towns, cities and villages of Kerala are well connected. Kerala has low lying areas, plains and highlands. So rescue operation is a challenge.  So far, Keralites managed the situation like no one else could do.  Now, the stranded people are spread all over the state. It is difficult to decide which place needs more help.

The relatives of the stranded people staying in other parts of India, and abroad, are able to make the best coordination. Yesterday one relative could send me an SMS that they are safe on the top floor. I could share the message with others. Now there is no more communication. Someone will be able to make contact, I am sure.

There are hundreds of Keralites waiting to help the victims. Churches, Youths, Voluntary Organisations, all are helping and more are willing to help. Yet the help is not reaching the people.

The biggest hurdle is that when thousands are rescued thousands of others are affected in another area. The calamity is unending. New Channels are unable to concentrate on one story. There are hundreds of stories of victims to share which can fill the newspapers for years. The calamity is so vast and unending that I feel we need help from every corner of the world.

 

An overview of the flood situation in Pathanamthitta Kerala


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If this post helps in saving at least one person from the flood in Kerala, my mission is accomplished. One of the worst-hit district in the flood in Pathanamthitta. My mother’s house is in Pathanamthitta district and I had spent my childhood vacations in some areas here. I got a lot of friends and relatives in different parts of the district. So I feel my article will give you some guidance to survive the flood.

Wednesday night there was a television announcement that there will be more flooding in Pathanamthitta. Pampa river was flooded and so there was red alert in the district. I called my relative whose house, I made a mental calculation, was away from the main road and close to a side stream of river Pampa. So there was every chance of their house getting flooded and they getting cutoff. I called them at 11:00 at night and they were oblivion of the grave situation. As I guessed, the house got surrounded by water next morning and they are stranded in the house. And their phone is switched off now.

Thursday Morning, there were news reports that Ranni in Pathanamthitta was flooded and water was rising. So I called a friend there who had earlier sent WhatsApp pictures of his house surrounded by water. He said the water was at the doorstep, and the water was receding.  He said he was not planning to leave and in case of emergency he will shift to his neighbour’s house which is on a higher area. His phone is also switched off.

Then I came to known that a relatives house in Chengannur, which has never seen a flood before, was flooded. The houses in their neighbourhood were flooded so around 15 people were staying in their house. Thankfully water had not entered the house but there was water up to neck outside the house. I called them and asked if I should contact the rescue team to help them. They were unable to give a conclusive answer about whether they wanted to leave the house. The 84-year-old head of the family did not want to leave the house at any cost.

In the evening there was a news report that water will increase in Chengannur. So they were rescued by boat and shifted to their relatives’ houses.

Thursday evening I came to know that a relative in a low lying area, (My maternal grandparents’ place)  has escaped to a safer place after wading through water, for 3 km, with kids. Earlier  I was worried for them because someone had put a video of a roaring Pampa and warned people on the banks of the river to evacuate immediately. This relative resides on the banks of river Pampa. This area is a low lying area with paddy filed on both sides of the tarred road. Flood is an annual affair for the people here.

The children here learn swimming before they can walk. The can rowboat and catch fish. In my childhood, my cousins here used to hold breath and stay underwater and we used to count. In short, the children here know how to survive the flood. And they enjoy flood. The houses are built on a higher platform, so water won’t enter the house. So they can cooley sit on the veranda and do some fishing in flood water. During floods, costly timber sometimes floats and that is a big catch (watch the movie Naran to know more).

I called him after he reached his wife’s house, in a safer place. He said his house is single-storeyed and water was slowly entering the house. He only had phone connectivity. There was no electricity or social media, so he was unaware of the gravity of the situation.  He decided to escape only when many people started calling him and requested him to leave the place. He said his neighbour, who has a two-story house, is still there staying on the second floor. They have no plans to escape.

I feel there is a difference between all the noise and the panic that is created online, and the situation of those who are facing the threat of flood.

We panic because we are flooded with images and videos of the flood. On the other hand, the people in Pathanamthitta do not have electricity. So they are not watching television. When we try to brief them of the gravity of the situation they are unable to grasp the issue.

They are trying to stay in their house and hold on to all their belongings.

When the water reaches the front yard, they wait. But once the water in inside the house they are unable to leave.

When the flash flood gushes in you are not given the time to carry belongings to the top floor. The friendly river is a foe for the time being.

Not all area in Pathanamthitta is flooded. One relative said they do not have dams nearby. Their house in on the top of a hill and the river flow at the bottom of the hill. So the water will not come to their house. They are praying that no landslides occur.

My feeling is if you are in Pathanamthitta and you have a river or a dam in the 4 km vicinity, then please try to move to a safer place. Or you make a mental calculation of the escape route so that things will be easier if there is a grave situation.

Don’t wait for the water to come knocking at your doorsteps. Move your valuables, food and drinking water to the top floor. If you have food and telephone, and no medical issues then you can wait patiently until the help reaches you.

Keep all the torch and emergency lights ready. If you have to make an aerial escape then a torch is useful. The rescue team on the helicopter can spot you if the torchlight is on.

You might be sitting assured that in case of emergency you can contact the rescue team and they will help. Actually, the rescue team is concentrating on people stranded from Wednesday. They will reach you but it will take time.

In many places, the rescue team has not reached because the calamity is so huge. The government is doing their best, and so is the army and volunteers. As natures fury is not subsiding the rescue work is increasing.

I write this post because I feel some of you who are under the threat of flood will read this post. And you will make the right decision to reach a safer place before the situation worsens.

Also, those who are away from home can guide their loved ones in flood-hit areas to reach safer destinations.

What happened when fashionable footwear became common in Kerala?

I don’t know when footwear became so common in Kerala. Because if you google ‘Kerala 1970’ or ‘Kerala 1975’ you will see that there are very few images of people in footwear. But one thing is sure that before the 90’s Keralites used to buy only water resistant rubber or plastic footwear.

In Kerala rain is unpredictable and in the bygone days, people had to walk a lot. There was no way to protect the shoes from getting wet. So in earlier days, people used to buy, water-resistant, rubber or plastic chappals.

And there was no compulsion for children to wear shoes to school because rain is unpredictable in Kerala.

When we went for the vacation during our childhood, to Kerala, we used to carry clothes that dry fast, and water-resistant footwear.

In the 1980’s, for instance, there were fewer private transports. People had to walk for 15-20 minutes, mostly on unpaved roads, to reach the bus stops. On rainy days there were potholes and puddles. That required durable footwear rather than fashionable footwear.

fashionable footwear

Since water resistance and design does not go together it was hard to find fashionable footwear in Kerala. If someone wore a fashionable shoe all eyes would be on those shoes.

From the 90’s there was an emerging fashion sense of footwear. Pointed and flat heals have become common. Sneakers and leather shoes are used as daily wears in the rain prone Kerala

Nowadays, everyone has a collection of shoes for various occasions. Yes, they own a pair of shoe for the rain too. But not the lacklustre plastic or rubber chappals of the yonder years. Now there are fashionable rainy shoes. And durability is not the issue.  What is more important is the good looks.

The 90’s is an important time period because it was in 1989 that an ad company gave Kerala the tile of ‘God’s own country’. The title changed the image of Kerala. And slowly Kerala became one of the sought after tourist destinations in the world. 1990 was also the beginning of globalisation and privatization.

A large number of Keralites started travelling aboard for work. People started getting exposed to other culture and there was more income. Also, a growing number of Indian and foreign tourists were visiting Kerala.

Keralites whether they were in Kerala or abroad, got exposed to other cultures. Cultural shock was reduced. The quality of life improved for Keralites. There were changes in the dressing also. Half sarees and sarees were replaced by salwar kameez. Rubber and water resistant plastic footwear were replaced by leather and designer footwear.

Own vehicles to travel

When you wear costly leather shoes, that can get spoiled in rain. Naturally, your concentration will be towards protecting the shoes from the rain. Most Keralites own vehicles like a car or a two-wheeler. Now there is no need to walk to the bus stands.

Front  yards paved with tiles

And the front yards are decorated with paved tiles. So there are no more puddles in front of the house. You can walk on the tiled pavements which are attractive and prevent the shoes from getting soiled.

fashionable footwear

Waterproof Houses

The houses and public buildings are now built rainproof. Not a single drop of rainwater enters the houses.  And the car parking is covered. you can get into the car without the shoes and clothes getting wet in the rain.

No space for rainwater to penetrate underground

The worrying factor is that when you cover the ground in front of your house with tiles, you are not allowing the rainwater to penetrated underground. When we use engineering and design to beautify the surrounding and protect ourselves from rain, do we play a role in the flood that hit Kerala?

Watching rain without getting wet

Before 1990’s people did not like to visit Kerala during the rainy season. Because the rain hampered the tour programme. But now people enjoy coming to Kerala because they can watch the rain, without getting wet, by sitting in the balcony or while travelling in an Airconditioned Car.

We think of rain as a spoiler when we visit Kerala to enjoy the lush green landscape. We forget that rain is responsible for the lush green landscape.

Building boundary walls, blocking rainwater

We build boundary walls around our property without leaving an outlet for the flood water to drain. In this way, we are preventing the rainwater from flowing and draining into the rivers.

Building houses inspired by the West

When we model our houses like those in Western countries, we must understand that those countries do not get rainfall like Kerala. When we build houses and public buildings, we must take into consideration the geography of the area.

What are the possible solutions?

Do not build houses on paddy fields

During this flood, many people were complaining, in television interviews, that the flood water cannot drain into the rivers or seas because their route is blocked by the manmade constructions. Some houses are built on the paddy fields, whereby the flood water cannot go underground in those places.

Do not block the route of the rainwater

There is a saying in Hindi “Paani apna rastha nahi bhoolta”. Which means water does not forget its route. If the water knows the way, the human being in the area also must be knowing the way the rainwater flows to drain in the river or sea.

Ensure that rainwater is able to penetrate underground

When we construct roads and houses, or hardscape the front and back yards, we must ensure that the rainwater is given its due space to seep underground or flow into the river.

Do not ignore rain and rainwater

We cannot live in Kerala by ignoring the rain. If there is too much rain then there is the flood. If there is a scarcity of rain then there is drought. A few months ago Kerala government was planning to produce artificial rain by cloud seeding because of the scarcity of water in some regions.

The manmade constructions are one of the many reasons for the flood. If we make some correction in the constructions of houses and public building, and it’s surroundings, we can prevent flood to some extent.

There is a saying in Malayalam, “Annaan kunjum thannaal aayathu.” which means “every little help”.  The proverb comes from the story of the little squirrel that helped Lord Rama in building the bridge. Lord Rama blessed the squirrel by stroking on the back. Which caused three striped to form on the squirrel. And Lord Rama said that the service of the small one also matters in the completion of a big project.

I feel that our houses are the smallest block of development in Kerala. We must provide options in our homes for rainwater harvesting and also for the excess water to flow into the river. Our small action helps in increasing the water table levels in our area.

In television interviews, you can see the flood victims blaming the government. We forget that we are also part of the Government. Some things we can also do. Instead of waiting for the Government to do something, we must take ownership of developing our village in an environment-friendly manner.

We are indebted to nature. In a State like Kerala, which is Nature’s bounty,  you cannot ignore Nature and her fury and carry on development.

In this flood, the water was around 5 ft high. A bigger flood had happened in 1924. The flood which is known as the great flood of 99 Malayalam Era (ME) is said to have risen to 12 ft. The flood killed thousands and washed away a rail line. Even in that flood the reason for the flood was said to a manmade construction – the breaches in the Mulleperiyar dam.

Find a rain friendly fashion

Nowadays we wear leather chappals that get spoiled in rain. And jeans that take a long time to dry. We must find an alternative fashion which is rain friendly. The design of our homes and garments must be rain friendly. We must enjoy getting wet and dirty in the rain.

fashionable footwear

When in Kerala blend with rain

When you are in Kerala, instead of finding methods to protect yourself from rain, blend with nature. Give rain the utmost priority in all your activities.