As Kerala tackles killer floods, we in Sydney must help.

By Sudha Kumar

Kerala is reeling even after the flood waters have receded.

A calamity of unprecedented scale. More than 350 people dead, 1,028,073 people in 3,274 relief camps across the state. About 101,500 of them children below the age of 12.

Kerala came to a standstill when the skies opened, her rivers ran rogue and the Earth moved, and a million human beings are left with nothing more than the clothes on their back.

A state crisscrossed with big rivers and tributaries, what started out as an early arrival of the monsoons slowly turned into a deluge of unimaginable scale. It rained consistently from 29 May right into August. By mid- August, Kerala had about 32% more rain than expected.

The dam reservoirs were up to the brim. The water had to be released which just compounded the problem.

Kerala is a tropical wet state. The South West monsoon hits land in Kerala. So excess rain and rising water levels happen often and are a part of life. But this time it was very different.

The three big rivers that run across the state ”“ Bharatapuzha, Periyar and Pamba along with a myriad tributaries swelled and surged cutting through anything in its wake. Some broke their banks changing the very course of the river. The Earth moved, giant landslides followed.  Thousands of households were affected. Roads and bridges destroyed by the sheer force. The water levels rose to more than six feet and houses and buildings disappeared underwater.

Nature does not discriminate and so all were affected. Humans and animals, houses big and small, the old, the sick and babies. Either washed away or marooned in their houses for days with no food or water. None spared.

Disasters on this scale awakens the human spirit and it prevails. Every human around rose to the calamity. People threw open their homes, shops and businesses. Employers encouraged workers to be involved in relief work. Stay at home mothers cooked for the survivors. Temples, churches and mosques housed and fed the fleeing survivors. The Army, Airforce and Navy took charge alongside the locals. Their work is invaluable. The fisher folk transported their fishing boats hundreds of kilometers and paddled house to house rescuing people or providing food.  Innovative technology apps and social media helped connect people.   As we speak there are thousands on the ground working around the clock helping Kerala get back on her feet.

Today the toll stands at 370 lives lost and rising, and more than 1000000 displaced. The rehabilitation process, cost and time would be phenomenal.

The total loss has been placed at a staggering 200 Billion USD (20,000 crore Indian Rupees).

Its a long and arduous road to recovery.

The Keralan diaspora is spread across India and the globe.   We held our breath for days   as our people back home gasped for air. Malayalee communities the world over called off Onam celebrations. There are few Sydney Malayalees whose family members did not bear the brunt of this one way or the other. The Australian government and community has been most supportive in their acknowledgement and kind words and prayers.

To help rebuild Kerala and express our solidarity with our brethren the Sydney Malayalee Association is taking the initiative to raise much needed funds that can be donated for relief work. Every dollar helps.

Please make your donations to:  

Then there are the ultimate questions of ”˜How?’ and ”˜Why’.?

Important questions that need to be answered. Obviously there are many factors that have contributed to the calamity. Human intervention notwithstanding, perhaps climate change tops the list.

But that discussion is for another time.

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