FLASH ALERT: SEVERE LANDSLIDES AND FLOODING IN KERALA, INDIA
Jade Patel, Benjamin Maher, Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards Team
Week of: Monday, October 18, 2021
Previous Floods in Kerala, India
The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT for the recent heavy rains in Kerala, India that have resulted in severe flooding and landslides. With thirty-five recorded deaths, survivors are currently being evacuated to over 100 relief camps nearby that have been set up to reduce the threat of displacement. Impacted populations are likely to suffer from short and long-term consequences as rescue efforts and emergency management practices are underway to preserve life where possible.
CTG is on HIGH alert of an unfolding humanitarian crisis caused by severe flooding and landslides in Kerala, India. With fatalities likely to rise, thousands of people are at great risk of residing in relief camps for long periods, which will likely increase the risk of mass displacement. As recovery efforts are underway to find those trapped in debris, military operations from the navy, airforce, and land army are continuing to provide emergency supplies to relief camps. As more people become impacted, further emergency aid will likely be required, including medical supplies to treat the injured.
Torrential downpours over the past weekend in the Kottayam and Idukki districts of Kerala have led to severe flooding and landslides resulting in major structural damage, with several homes being swept away and victims becoming buried in mud and debris. An increasing total of thirty-five fatalities has occurred, including several incidents of drowning. Rescue teams are currently working to find those trapped as the military continues to deliver emergency supplies.
The torrential rains have caused rivers to swell, creating severe flooding that has increased the threats to critical infrastructure, including vehicles and buildings becoming submerged along with some housing areas being completely eradicated. The infrastructure in the state of Kerala has failed to mitigate the natural pressures caused by the torrential rain. The increasing speed of water flow has created the risk of civilians being caught in dire circumstances where they cannot escape. It is very likely that civilians cannot rely on finding shelter in any infrastructure in Kerala, due to the increased risk of possible building collapse. Along with this, the increased flooding of roads raised the risk of drowning as civilians attempted to flee the affected areas through alternative modes of travel. It is critical that civilians living in affected areas evacuate through safe avenues. Current evacuation operations are using boats to collect civilians from river banks but it is unlikely that local police and emergency management personnel will have the resources to reach all vulnerable persons and it is increasing the importance for government officials to raise awareness for safe means of evacuation and shelter where vulnerable civilians are unable to avail of state-led evacuations.
The floodwaters in Kerala are at risk of containing bacteria, viruses, and parasites as the flooding is highly likely to merge with pollutants such as agricultural waste. Civilians must have access to clean drinking water and avoid food and surfaces that have been in contact with floodwater, as well as the use of possibly contaminated water for hygienic purposes. It is almost certain that due to economic difficulties and access to alternative sources of water that civilians will be reliant on the use of unclean water from flooded rivers, increasing the risk of disease spread. It is also likely that availability and accessibility regarding medical services will be impacted by flooding, producing critical infrastructure failures, and leaving disease without treatment; increasing the spread and fatalities. When the flooding decreases and waters subside it will be important for local communities to have access to clean water, as it is likely that they will remain reliant on local water systems and rivers which will almost certainly become contaminated.
The state of Kerala has seen thousands of people evacuated with approximately 184 camps providing essential services to over 8,000 civilians. The camps are likely to receive high numbers of displaced civilians as the flooding continues and civilians find routes of access to the camps. There are increased risks that overpopulated areas bring, such as the rapid spread of diseases and famine, and the camps will likely lack the resources to support these risks. It will be increasingly important to expand operations and increase access to services of clean water, food, and sanitation to mitigate the risks of illness and the spread of diseases. COVID-19 poses a risk as many rural populations remain unvaccinated and overpopulated areas can create superspreader events. Emergency shelters must prioritize social distancing and sanitation. There is a risk that as flooding recedes that civilians will remain displaced due to infrastructural damages. It is unlikely that redevelopment of critical infrastructure can be completed in the short term and this will leave thousands of civilians without shelter. The camps will likely become critical transition points and they will need to adapt through long-term planning to maintain safe environments through sourcing sustainable water, food, and sanitation supplies.
Emergency response and rescue teams are working to evacuate survivors to relief camps while undergoing major rescue operations to search for those trapped under buildings due to the high amount of mud caused by the landslides. As rivers continue to overflow and obstacles remain blocking roads, rescue teams will likely need to find alternative access routes, specifically for hard-to-reach areas. Without quick and effective access, increasing fatalities are very likely to occur. Until the roads are accessible, recovery operations will remain challenging, and civilians will likely have to remain in relief camps which will result in the need for more supplies. The government has begun evacuations in the state of Kerala to get vulnerable persons out of the immediate dangers of flooding. Many civilians are being transported to camps where clean water, food, and shelter are being provided. There is heavy rain forecasted in other regions with the expectation that impacts will worsen and emergency evacuations are likely to start before forecasted flooding. This is likely to impact the number of personnel and resources available to deal with the multiple simultaneous incidents. This may impact the effectiveness of evacuation procedures as the number of vulnerable persons may outstretch the government's capacity to support all civilians.
CTG recommends that more emergency aid has to be sourced from intercontinental and international organizations to relieve the pressures faced by operational rescue teams. With a more adverse weather forecast, other regions will likely be heavily impacted by severe flooding, almost certainly exhausting current services and relief camps. Without a safe place to be, the threat of survivors becoming internally displaced will increase and is very likely to lead to a humanitarian crisis, placing thousands in a vulnerable situation. For more detailed information, such as a Threat Assessment report, or more tailored reports to specific threats, contact us at email@example.com.
CTG assesses that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that Kerala will face a state of crisis, resulting in thousands of people becoming displaced. With more adverse rainfall expected, more people will likely be impacted and evacuated to safety. With multiple regions impacted, relief camps are likely to become overcrowded, limiting accessible supplies and leaving thousands vulnerable to malnutrition, disease, and homelessness. Without access to medications, it is also likely that thousands of people will be at risk of developing fatal health conditions. Road access must be regained where possible in a timely manner to allow emergency teams to provide aid. Recovery must also be initiated as soon as possible to decrease long stays in relief camps and to begin rebuilding devastated communities.
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 Landslides, floods kill dozens, displace many in India’s Kerala, Al- Jazeera, October 2021,https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2021/10/18/pictures-india-kerala-landslides-floods
 At least 22 people killed after torrential rain in India's Kerala state triggers landslides and floods, CNN, October 2021, https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/18/india/kerala-rains-flooding-intl-hnk/index.html
 WARMER WATER AND FLOODING INCREASE THE RISK OF ILLNESS AND INJURY, CDC, October 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/warmer-water-final_508.pdf
 Kerala floods: At least 26 killed as rescuers step up efforts, BBC, November 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-58940880