Update as of Saturday, August 18: According to sources, more than 320 people have died since the monsoons began, although the state emergency room reports a toll of about 200. More than 300,000 people are waiting in relief camps and thousands more are still waiting to be rescued.
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew over the state of Kerala on Saturday and pledged an additional £56m in financial assistance and compensation for the families of the dead.
In Kerala, I took stock of the situation arising in the wake of the devastating floods across the state.
Joined a review meeting and undertook an aerial survey to assess the damage caused by flooding.
The nation stands firmly with Kerala in this hour. pic.twitter.com/PFeWTTZAwl
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 18, 2018
The Indian state of Kerala, nicknamed “God’s Own Country,” named by National Geographic as one of the “World’s Top Ten Paradises,” and known for its religious diversity, is currently in a crisis. Nearly 100 people have been killed, and over a hundred thousand people have been displaced to relief camps across the state in torrential rains and flooding.
Roads have been destroyed, students and families are missing, the Cochin International Airport has been shut down, red alerts have been issued, and food and drinking water are becoming scarce.
What Caused the Flooding?
Severe rain has caused flooding of many rivers across the state and due to this flooding, the state has had to open 33 major dams to release the overflowing water only magnifying the flooding for those who live in downstream areas.
What’s Being Done?
The Army, Navy, Indian Air Force, Coast Guard and the National Disaster Response force have all mobilized in the relief effort and rescue operations by providing manpower, boats, and helicopters. The Indian Navy has been airlifting people out of Trichur, Aluva, and Muvattupuzha. Volunteers are also helping create makeshift bridges to facilitate transportation within the state and Jio, BSNL, and Airtel have offered free services for their customers in Kerala.
I spoke to a local source, Kalyani Nandakumar, who is currently “safe” in Trivandrum, but has been privy to the rescue efforts and severity of the situation. Kalyani is based in Kerala where she is a web content writer for Zyxware Technologies and also co-founded the Dviti Foundation, an NGO focused on introducing SEL into education.
She gave a special shout out to the NGO “Anbodu Kochi,” which has set up several collection points for people to donate provisions and supplies to be used at relief centers. Although she believes that the Kerala CM is doing a great job responding to the situation, she mentioned that “people are scared to donate money” because of corruption, and so Anbodu Kochi is offering an alternative way for people to help.
She also spoke about the power of social media during a crisis such as this one.
“I’ve never seen social media used this way,” she said. District leaders and the CM are uses platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to articulate specific needs and these posts are helping NGOs “divide and conquer.”
“Everyone is really working together here.”
However, Kalyani also mentioned something important about the government’s role so far:
“I’m shocked that it took so long for politicians and news outlets to cover this disaster.”
And she’s right. These torrential rains began on August 8 and the Prime Minister of India is only scheduled to visit Kerala tomorrow (some websites are even saying Friday). Why did it take more than a week for the national government to really acknowledge the crisis? Why have many news channels either trivialized the issue or avoided it all together? Why are no major US news outlets covering the issue? How can Kerala expect help from a world that doesn’t even know what they are going through?
What Happens Next?
The rains are expected to come to a standstill on Sunday, but the lingering question now is what happens next? More than 150,000 people (and counting) have been displaced from this crisis. Does the Kerala government have the infrastructure and help it needs to sustain these people during the rebuilding efforts?
“Panic mode has stricken” says Kalyani. “There are money issues to be sorted out, diseases will spread, and there is a shortage of fuel because the refineries are flooded.”
She told me a story about a severely diabetic man who was airlifted off his terrace after waiting for a whole day; he’s going to need insulin at his relief camp.
“How do you stay prepared for something like this?”
Additionally, Kerala will need to reexamine how their current infrastructure contributed to the intensities of the flooding.
Lastly, this situation is impacting one of the most beloved and celebrated holidays in Kerala – Onam, which began on August 15th and ends on the 27th. Onam is the only holiday in all of India that is celebrated by Muslims, Hindus, and Christians alike, and this year it will be cancelled. All the money used for the carnivals, food, parades, and lights will be going towards the relief efforts.
What Can You Do to Help?
Help perpetuate awareness:
The Kerala floods are not being treated as important world news. Write a post and tell a friend. Before we can fix a problem, people need to know that the problem exists. So, share this article on your newsfeed and InstaStories!
Donate to the cause:
There are several credible websites that are collecting donations. You can donate directly on this Facebook donation page, which has seen close to $700,000 or through the Kerala CM’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF). If you choose to make the donation online, here are the account details to follow: Account number: 67319948232 / Bank: State Bank of India / Branch: City branch, Thiruvananthapuram / IFS Code: SBIN0070028 / PAN: AAAGD0584M /Name of Donee: CMDRF.
Our friends at Constantly Create Shop are donating profits to Kerala CM’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) to help flood victims in need. For bulk orders contact [email protected] For free shipping within the U.S., use code MINTPRINTS at checkout here.
As a photographer from Kerala, I’ve found myself looking back at the photos I’ve taken in God’s Own Country. I’ve turned my favorite shots into postcards, with 100 percent of the proceeds going towards relief efforts.Donate $7+, and I’ll send you a personalized postcard of one of my photographs! Pick your postcard here and specify your choice as a note before donating.
Help someone in danger:
If you know anyone who is currently in danger or stranded by the floods, the government of Kerala has started an initiative to request help.
It is during times of crisis that the strength of our community is tested — if one state hurts, we all should hurt.