Natural Disasters

Heavy rains again take Kerala route, alert issued

A yellow alert has been issued by IMD in the state’s five districts

 
By Akshit Sangomla
Last Updated: Tuesday 25 September 2018
Kerala Floods
Floods in Kerala, which peaked in August after record breaking downpour over 11 days, killed 503 people and injured 140. Credit: Rejimon Kuttappan Floods in Kerala, which peaked in August after record breaking downpour over 11 days, killed 503 people and injured 140. Credit: Rejimon Kuttappan

One month after Kerala was devastated by the worst floods in a century, five districts in the state have been put on yellow alert by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) for September 25 and 26. The IMD says that there will be heavy rain (64.4 mm to 124.4 mm) in Pathanamthitta, Idukki and Wayanad districts on September 25. For September 26, a yellow alert has been issued for Palakkad, Idukki, Thrissur and Wayanad districts.

A yellow alert means that there will be rainfall in many places and heavy rainfall in some isolated places. It also indicates that the authorities have to be on watch and be updated about the situation regularly. An orange alert asks the people to be alert and prepared to take action. The highest level of alert is red when the authorities have to take action.

The current situation arises after a particularly dry spell of monsoon in September, especially in the Southern Peninsula. In Kerala, the excess seasonal rainfall fell from 42 per cent on August 19 at the peak of the rains to 25 per cent on September 23 owing to lack of rain in the period. In fact, in a week (September 13-19) Kerala recorded a rain deficit of 93 per cent. This condition changed after Cyclone Daye hit the Odisha coast on September 21 bringing rains to north, central and some parts of south India.

The floods

Floods in Kerala, which peaked in August after record breaking downpour over 11 days, killed 503 people and injured 140. More than 54 lakh people were affected by the floods while there was extensive damage to personal property. State highways, districts and village roads worth 6,350 km were destroyed by landslides and flash floods. The maximum damage had occurred in the districts which have yet again been put on alert.

The torrential rains in August had occurred because of changes in the nature of monsoon rainfall pattern, something which will happen with greater frequency in a warming world due to climate change. The authorities in Kerala had also been caught napping about the Central Water Commission not having a flood forecasting system in place and the dam management officials being left in a quandary on whether to open the dam gates or not, when to open them and by how much. This meant that the state officials in the state, which has 61 dams, opened the gates to release water only at the last moment but the water had already reached dangerous levels. This opening of dam gates had intensified the flood situation drowning many downstream districts and leaving a trail of devastation.

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