Sailing in different water – Kerala Floods

The mayhem associated with Kerala floods that devastated the normal life of people can be explained through the simple statistics that 391 houses are fully damaged and 10316 houses are partially damaged; 241250 families are affected from 965 villages coming under 74 panchayats, 24 blocks and 14 taluks and 7 districts; 25,469 families  with 86598 persons are staying in the relief centres.

Between the l6th and 18th of July 2018, the Southcentral part of Kerala experienced continuous rainfall without any break that measured above 20 cm which is categorized as heavy rain. All the 44 rivers that run across Kerala especially Manimala, Achankovil, Pumpa and  Meenachil rivers overflowed and the flood water washed away the low-lying areas and river banks. The landslide in the eastern part of Kerala – the high ranges of Idukki, Kottayam and  Pathanamthitta Districts worsened the situation by multiplying the loss and damages to men, animals and holdings. The gravity of losses and damages are yet to be assessed.

The State Disaster Management Authority assessment states that a total of 55,007 hectares of agricultural land including 32000 hectares from Kuttanad has been submerged. Against the normal depth of  15 ft water, the current depth is 25ft in Kuttanadu region. Due to the high pressure of the flood water, the bunds of the entire paddy fields in Kuttandu are broken

The situation of the waterlogged Kuttanad region is deplorable. Due to the high pressure of the flood water, the bunds of the entire paddy fields in Kuttandu are broken.. For the next cultivation, the entire stagnant water has to be pumped out.

Caritas India team with Dr.John Arokiaraj, South Zonal Manager as the team leader initiated the emergency response to the flood situation through Joint Rapid Needs Assessment (JRNA). The Kerala Social Service (KSSF) Forum under the leadership of  Fr.George Vettikattil played a significant role in coordinating with the Diocesan Directors of affected districts. A formidable combination of 9 JRNA teams steered by John Arokiaraj, Siby Paulose, Amal Sebastian and Robert D’souza completed the task on the 21st and 22nd of July,2018.

The field realities were captured through their observation, interaction with the affected people and the questionnaire used. At the field level, the teams co-ordinated with the Parish Council, CBO leaders and Panchayat representatives and Government officials. The assessment details were consolidated. Thanks to Raj Bharath, PEACH Volunteer from MSSS, Chennai who was part of JRNA team.  The findings of the assessment revealed that other than DSSSs,  there are no other agencies/NGOs presently working in the affected area.

Caritas India team also arranged a coordination meeting with all the partner directors/representatives and worked out the plan of action for supporting the identified needs of the neediest families.

Through Community Radio Changanacherry Social Service Society is mobilising relief materials and has supported 80 centres with 50 tonnes of rice, 10 tonnes of cereals, 5000 loaves of bread,5000 litres of milk, 2 tonnes of vegetables, blankets and clothes. Relief materials are being dispatched to the affected DSSSs from non affected DSSSs.

As the Shepherds of the Dioceses, Bishops are seen walking through knee deep and hip level water reaching out to console the affected. The assessment teams are happy to witness the resilience capacity of the affected people. There is tranquillity among the flood victims. They are content and thankful to the caretakers. No security issues reported.

Altogether it was a different experience for the JRNA team members as they were sailing in the boats on the roads of Kottayam and Alappuzha. Boat travel in Kuttanadu waters was disturbing as invariably all the houses are underwater and carcasses are floating.

The team members unanimously expressed that it was an enriching learning experience where they have learnt that one should be calm, firm, well informed, focused on the common cause, empathetic, work as a unit of a totality and assume responsibilities according to each one’s capacity and interest. The entire operation was ably backed up by Anjan Bag- DRR Thematic Manager and Babita Alick- Operations Manager.

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