Kerala Floods: A Gut-Wrenching Disaster Unfolding on Our Timelines

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Kerala Floods: A Gut-Wrenching Disaster Unfolding on Our Timelines

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

I

n the last couple of weeks, the floods in Kerala, considered the worst in a century, have claimed over 324 lives and displaced over three lakh people. To get even an inkling of the consequences accompanying the disaster that’s unfolding on our timelines in real-time, look no further than Chengannur MLA Saji Cheriyan’s heart-wrenching request to the government yesterday.

As a Malayalam news channel called him for a reaction on the floods, Cheriyan broke down on live television and sent a distress message asking for help. “Please give us a helicopter. I am begging you. Please help me, people in my place will die. There is no other solution, people have to be airlifted. We did what we can with fishing boats we procured using our political clout. But we can’t do more. The armed forces need to come here, please help us,” he said. It’s not a sight you witness everyday — a government servant elected to serve the people rendered helpless and bowed before the fury of nature.

Chengannur, which lies in Kerala’s Alappuzha district has been one of the worst affected areas and the internet is awash with innumerable messages begging for help. Baring the apathy of the central government that had announced a ₹500 crore relief fund, when the state is in need of ₹2000 crore, Cheriyan claimed that not even one helicopter had made it to the area, risking the lives of 50,000 people. It was even more saddening when he revealed that the water levels were so high that they’d even been unable to retrieve the bodies of the ones who had already succumbed.

The media coverage has been abysmal to say the least — a stark contrast to the hurried monsoon dispatches in cities like Mumbai and Delhi.

Chengannur isn’t the only area ravaged by the floods; even as rescue operations continue in full swing in the flood-hit state, countless people remain stranded in various parts of Kerala. Over the last week, we’ve all read horror stories of people being submerged in neck-deep water in their own homes without electricity or water, thousands losing their homes, and newborn babies almost drowning. The situation in Kerala is nothing short of an ecological disaster: 35 out of the 42 dams in the state are overflowing and Periyar and Chalakuddi rivers are overloading the low-lying areas in Ernakulam. The Idukki reservoir, which is the state’s largest dam is releasing more than 5 lakh litres of water every second. It’s impossible to not be gutted while scrolling through the never-ending desperate pleas for help, and sort through the evidence of destruction, even when it is from a safe distance. It’s in helpless times like these does one truly grapple with the unpredictable nature of humanity.

The media coverage has been abysmal to say the least — a stark contrast to the hurried monsoon dispatches in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. The front pages of most newspapers are coloured by the absence of any news on Kerala.

Yet, in these troubled times, the faint glimmer of hope has arisen from the citizens of the country. Even though some state governments, like Delhi and Punjab, have pledged an assistance of ₹10 crore, the bulk of the flood relief donations are being spearheaded by ordinary people across the country. In the past few days, a sizeable number of people have circulated appeals to donate to the Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund, as well as contributing supplies and leading rescue operations.

In the last 48 hours, PayTM has managed to raise ₹3 crore for the flood relief while more and more people are taking to Amazon to send grocery packages. Over the last two days, mobilisation drives by volunteers and NGOs in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore have gone out of their way to collect money, clothes, groceries, and basic utilities for the people suffering in Kerala.

Once Kerala survives this, it’s evident that God’s own country will have to be rebuilt from scratch. It will be a difficult and heartbreaking task, but even more so, if it’s once again left to deal with it on its own. Let Kerala not be let down by the people of India.

You can donate to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief fund here, contribute to the relief operations on PayTm, Ketto, Goonj, Milaap, or pay for a NGO’s wishlist on Amazon.

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