India flooding: Death toll soars past 150 as dozens more remain missing

·4-min read

Swathes of India have been ravaged by floods and landslides following a deluge of heavy monsoon rains that have claimed at least 164 lives, with more than 64 people missing and thousands evacuated.

Torrential downpours lashed the western coastal states of Maharashtra and Goa, as well as Karnataka and Telangana as workers, including personnel from Indian armed forces, were deployed for the urgent rescue mission.

The crew used boats and helicopters to search for missing people. They also waded through thick sludge and debris to rescue over 60 people buried under rubble from landslides in the worst-hit Raigad and Satara district where people are trapped for more than three days, an official said.

In Raigad alone 71 people have died, while there are 41 and 21 fatalities in Satara and Ratnagiri respectively, according to latest data by the government.

"We are trying hard to rescue people trapped under landslide debris in Raigad and Satara but the possibility of evacuating them alive is remote. They are trapped under mud for more than three days," said a senior official with the state government.

Three landslides wreaked havoc in Raigad following incessant rains on Thursday, leading to an assurance of help from chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday.

Two national highways, including one connecting Pune and Bengaluru, were partially submerged in water, blocking movement of traffic. Other key roads leading to villages were also under water.

People await for help on top floor of their house after village submerged in water at Kolhapur in western Maharashtra state, India (AP)
People await for help on top floor of their house after village submerged in water at Kolhapur in western Maharashtra state, India (AP)

Several people were trapped on the rooftops of their houses, anxiously awaiting help from rescuers in Sangli district as the village appeared to be submerged in water.

Terrifying visuals from Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri showed a bus depot completely submerged in water. The manager was stranded on a bus as other vehicles were seen floating around it.

In Karnataka and Telangana, dozens of people have already died because of floods and landslides. Karnataka government issued red alert in seven districts after landslides occurred in eight places.

India’s tourist destination Goa, home to a large population of foreigners, is facing the worst floods in nearly four decades, the state’s chief minister Pramod Sawant said. Hundreds of houses have been damaged and drowned in flood waters. “People have lost virtually everything,” said health minister Vishwajit Rane.

Maharashtra government said in a statement on Monday that 164 people have died across the state, 100 people are missing and 2,29,074 have been evacuated.

Aerial view of the Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra, India (EPA)
Aerial view of the Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra, India (EPA)

The situation was grim in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh where at least nine people died and four were injured after a massive landslide. Terrifying visuals showed huge boulders and rocks crashing down on a bridge causing its collapse in the Sangla valley.

Prime minister Narendra Modi expressed his “anguish over loss of lives” while condolences poured in from foreign ministries of neighbouring Bangladesh, Maldives, Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan.

While monsoons are typically notorious in India, studies suggest that the climate crisis is making India’s monsoons worse. A Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research report published in April said the situation would only worsen, leading to dire consequences for nearly a fifth of the world’s population.

Roxy Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, said in a tweet that flood situation in India is “unprecedented, but not unexpected.”

“We already see a threefold rise in widespread extreme rains that cause floods across India. Red colors in this image indicate rise in extreme rains,” he added.

The climatic devastation in India is similar to disasters seen around the world during recent weeks, including in China’s central Henan province as well as in Germany and Belgium.

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