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kerala

Kerala, a Southern coastal state in India, has experienced intense rainfall in recent days that has caused fatal flooding. (Photo: Hindustan Times)

As 'Unprecedented Flooding Havoc' Kills Hundreds in Kerala, Indian Scientist Decries 'Man-Made Disaster'

"I hope everyone will learn a lesson from this," says V.S. Vijayan. "Due to climate change, such tragedies are bound to increase... We can take measures to lower the intensity of such impacts."

Jessica Corbett

As "unprecedented flooding havoc" from a monsoon has killed at least 186 people and displaced some 223,000 in Kerala—a state in Southern India that borders the Arabian Sea—in recent days, scientists worldwide warn that the climate crisis will continue to exacerbate extreme weather, including through dangerous increases in rainfall.

"Our state is in the midst of an unprecedented flood havoc... The calamity has caused immeasurable misery and devastation."
—Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

Although, as TIME pointed out, "monsoons usually bring heavy rainfall to Kerala every year...this year's downpour and subsequent flooding have been cited as the worst in the state in nearly a century." In 1924, three weeks of devastating rains "submerged several major cities" across the state.

This year, while rainfall has been eight percent below average across India, Kerala has experienced 37 percent more rain than usual, according to the India Meteorological Department. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang noted Thursday that "increases in extreme rainfall are classic climate change effects, and both India and Pakistan have been witnessing an increase in intense monsoon rains."

"For Kerala's flood disaster, we have ourselves to blame," a pair of Indian reporters wrote for the Hindustan Times Friday, pointing to poor regional planning for extreme weather events as well as recent studies from the nation's scientists that connect intensifying monsoon rains to global warming and deforestation. 

Environmental scientist V.S. Vijayan told the newspaper that Kerala is experiencing a man-made disaster, declaring: "This was waiting to happen. Insensible use of land, soil, and rocks led to this deluge. Landslips and flash floods happened in areas that witnessed widespread human incursions."

"I hope everyone will learn a lesson from this," V.S. Vijayan continued. "Due to climate change, such tragedies are bound to increase. Nobody can stop rains or control floods. But we can take measures to lower the intensity of such impacts."

Noting that more than 300 people have died in Kerala during the ongoing monsoon season, the state's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan shared updates on Twitter Friday. With current weather conditions expected to last through the weekend, he emphasized that "in many places, the rains continue to remain strong and therefore a serious situation exists."

While some have drawn comparisons to floods that ravaged the region nearly a century ago, Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters, "We're witnessing something that has never happened before in the history of Kerala," explaining that "almost all dams are now opened" and "most of our water treatment plants are submerged."

"Our state is in the midst of an unprecedented flood havoc," Pinarayi Vijayan said. "The calamity has caused immeasurable misery and devastation."

Citing a government relief fund website, Bloomberg reported Friday that "as many as 23 bridges have collapsed, more than 211 landslides have been reported, and about 10,000 kilometers (6,213 miles) of roads have been destroyed. Over 20,000 houses have been damaged, 180,000 farmers are affected, and total damages are estimated at about 83.2 billion rupees ($1.2 billion)."


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