Bangalore / Hyderabad / New Delhi: The worst floods to hit southern India in many decades had left at least 300 dead and two million homeless by Wednesday in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, where state governments are starting to count the cost of the damage done to their economies.
Millions of acres of farmland have been swamped by the floods triggered by torrential rainfall, ravaging corn, cotton and paddy crops and damaging vital installations in the two states, where the authorities are stepping up relief and rescue efforts. The floods followed drought brought by less-than-normal rainfall in large swathes of the country, hurting the summer crop.
The Karnataka government, which put the death toll in the state at 252, said its initial assessment showed the damage was to the tune of Rs20,000 crore and called for the devastation to be declared a national calamity.
In Andhra Pradesh, where 63 people have died by official count, flood waters receded in the districts of Kurnool and Mahboobnagar, helping the authorities to accelerate relief efforts. Three more districts—Krishna, Guntur and Nalgonda—continued to reel under floods. The state expects its losses from the flooding to exceed Rs50,000 crore, which is nearly half of its annual budget and four times the preliminary estimate, said a senior government official who didn’t want to be named.
According to the preliminary estimate, the state suffered a loss of Rs12,225 crore. At least 80% of the loss was in the form of damage done to public infrastructure, including irrigation facilities, roads, power and communications links.
In New Delhi, meteorologists ruled out the heavy rains that pounded Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka being a freak weather phenomenon, though the monsoon officially ended on 30 September.
“Of course the region has received excess rains over the last week, which have contributed to the floods. But that’s not unusual. South India continues to receive rains till mid-October,” said India Meteorological Department chief Ajit Tyagi.
Statistics from a database maintained by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, suggest that except for the week ended 30 September, rainfall in north Karnataka, that bore the brunt of the floods, had been close to the 50-year average. In Andhra Pradesh, the rainfall is still deficient by 25%.
Madhavan Rajeevan, a meteorologist with the Indian Space Research Organisation, said a cyclonic disturbance at this time of the year had been on the cards. “The drought was largely due to poor rains in north and central India. South India had normal rains,” he said. “Typically, these systems continue to form till November and, therefore, is not surprising.”
Picking up the pieces
1. Flood victims collect clothes brought by charitable volunteer groups at Alampur village, about 200km from Hyderabad, on Wednesday. Aid workers used helicopters and boats to try and reach survivors of the massive floods in south India that have killed at least 300, officials said. Days of heavy rain and flash floods in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have forced close to two million to take refuge in relief camps. Krishnendu Halder / Reuters.(click here)
2. A scramble for food at Alampur. Rescue workers have struggled to deliver rations to the flood-hit. Krishnendu Halder / Reuters. (click here)
3. A young flood victim in Burdipadu village in Raichur district, some 690km north of Bangalore. Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP. (click here)
4. Villagers use a boat to move around in Ibrahimpatnam in Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district on Wednesday. The floods in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, described as the worst in decades, have resulted in losses of homes, farms and infrastructure totalling at least Rs32,000 crore, authorities say. Mahesh Kumar A / AP. (click here)