Agri Business

Flood-ravaged Kerala needs to brace for N-E monsoon now

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on October 17, 2021

The toll from disastrous flooding caused by heavy rains and landslides in hilly areas of Idukki and Kottayam districts rose to more than 20 as rescue workers recovered more bodies from the rubbles on Sunday.   -  VISHNU PRATHAPN

IMD says easterlies may establish in three days

Rain-bearing seasonal easterly winds across the Bay of Bengal and headed for South Peninsula may strengthen from Wednesday even as late-in-the season south-westerly winds poured it down over Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, setting off floods and landslides.

The easterlies are expected to gradually announce the arrival of the North-East monsoon over the South Peninsula and simultaneously the exit of the predecessor Southwest monsoon. But as on Sunday afternoon, the south-westerlies had the upper hand, having pulverised parts of Kerala, Tami Nadia and Karnataka just the previous day.

Over 20 feared killed

More than 20 lives are believed to have been lost following floods and landslides, with torrential rain pummelling the midlands in Central Kerala in an unparalleled orgy of violent weather in an immediate reprisal of the defining 2018 events. The worst-hit foothills of the Western Ghats in the Kottayam district accounted for 13 deaths and the hilly and contiguous Idukki, the rest.

Relief and rescue efforts are still on since there is no reliable figure as to how many may have gone missing during the catastrophic event unfolding during a weekend. Several units of the NDRF and teams of the Army and the Civil Defence Corps have still deployed a cross the disaster covering many districts.

Yellow alert declared

India Meteorological Department (IMD) had declared a yellow alert for most of the districts in Kerala for potential spells of moderate to isolated rain through Sunday. Isolated rain spells hampered the relief efforts at a number of places in the state.

Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director-General, IMD, told BusinessLine from New Delhi that the deluge resulted from a rare case of a low-pressure area over the Arabian Sea taking a predicted inward East-South-East track towards the Kerala coast and interacting with a counterpart ‘low’ over the Bay of Bengal.

Violent weather unfolds

The sleepy and scenic villages in the midlands of Kerala had hardly bargained for some historically violent weather unfolding in the process and rarely, if ever, during this phase of monsoon transition.

Not just this, Mohapatra said, pointing to how the Arabian Sea ‘low’ interacted furiously with the incoming Bay system headed for the Andhra Pradesh coast. It raised each other’s rain-generating potential manifold to the accompaniment of high winds whipped up by the slow-moving Arabian Sea ‘low.’

Amit Shah offers help

Union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted earlier on Sunday that “we are continuously watching the situation in parts of Kerala in the wake of heavy rainfall and flooding. The Central Government will provide all possible support to help people in need. NDRF teams have already been sent to assist the rescue operations.”

The floodwaters may be receding, but they must drain out along the rivers and rivulets into the low-lying and water-bound ‘rice basket’ of Kuttanad, threatening more potential flooding of the area and damage to standing crops.

‘Ferocity beats the 2018 scale’

Entires areas of fertile agricultural lands where mainly plantation crops are grown along with houses and settlements in the Western Ghats foothills were swept away by flash floods of a ferocity not witnessed even during 2018, according to eye witnesses and survivors.

Some areas witnessed catastrophe of a scale even elders are not able to recall from living memory. Rivers, rivulets and even small streams suddenly breached banks with bewildering frequency. They converted themselves into calamitous torrents engulfing broad swathes with floodwaters reaching up to rooftop levels in the rural backyard of Kottayam along the plains and foothills of the lofty Western Ghats.

In no time, their homesteads had been reduced to a ravaged geography of mounds of loose earth, huge boulders and rubble, with streams of water erupting from nowhere.

Published on October 17, 2021

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