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20.08.2019 Europe

Torrential rains continue to ravage India

By Murali Krishnan in New Delhi - RFI
T K Benoy
LISTEN AUG 20, 2019

Monsoon rains have hammered several states in northern India with over 30 people killed in floods and landslides in recent days. More than 350 have been killed across the country so far this monsoon season.

Heavy rains have ravaged northern India, weeks after several states in the south and west were hit by floods. The states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala are the worst-hit, with hundreds of thousands displaced.

At least 36 people are known to have dead and over 20 are missing in the northern Indian states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Punjab as of Monday. A flood alert has also been sounded in parts of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh with the Yamuna and other rivers overrunning their banks.

“We have been urging people in low-lying areas to move to temporary shelters set up by the administration. So far, 2,120 shelters have been set up,” Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal told RFI.

The Indian Army, the air force, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and state authorities have been carrying out rescue operations in various parts of the country.

Incessant rainfall 
According to relief agencies and state authorities who have been involved in rehabilitation and relief at least 350 people have died in this year's monsoon floods this year – and it is not over yet.

Heavy rains and floods in recent years have extracted a heavy price. The northern Bihar state has suffered the highest number of deaths due to flooding – 970 people lost their lives over the past four years. Kerala, West Bengal and Maharashtra were also hard hit.

“Though the met department has established a robust early warning system and has significantly enhanced the accuracy of weather forecasts, much more needs to be done by local governing bodies who have no idea about preventing disaster," Jeevan Prasanna, a climate expert told RFI. "The government jumps into action only after disaster takes place. 

"We have to mobilise our resources to tackle disasters, natural or otherwise. We have made some progress but a lot more needs to be done,” said disaster management official Manish Puri.

Better dam management
The Indian Meteorological Department says heavy monsoon rains intensified by a low-pressure area is the main reason behind the natural disaster across several states.

The depression first formed in the Bay of Bengal in early August and travelled across the mainland bringing incessant rains to eastern states like Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The rains intensified once the depression reached western India, causing floods in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

As many major and minor rivers are flowing close to danger mark, many state authorities have opened up the floodgates on dams.

Heavy and erratic rainfall is unquestionably a major cause of inundations. But they also often coincide with over-filled dams needing to be relieved due to poor management, resulting in dam-induced floods, say experts.

Flood management systems in the worst-hit states, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, are coming under the spotlight, in an effort to deal better with the seasonal disaster.