Thankful for contact with flood-hit families

Dunedin web developer Midhun Sankar checks flood conditions in his home state of Kerala in southern coastal India. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Dunedin web developer Midhun Sankar checks flood conditions in his home state of Kerala in southern coastal India. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Allied Press web developer Midhun Sankar and his wife Meera are thankful a good internet connection allows them regular contact with their families in flood-ravaged Kerala.

The couple are both from the south Indian coastal state, which has been inundated by massive monsoon rains, so being able to keep in touch with family is important.

''Social media is great and here it's being used for a good purpose,'' Mr Sankar said this week.

He believed technology had played a great role in helping people during the flooding.

Government and local officials and agencies were all working together and so far about 700,000 people had been rescued.

Many were living in shelters until they could return home and begin work on the clean-up.

Coastal fishing people had played a major role in the rescue effort, Mr Sankar said.

Their communities were badly affected by Cyclone Ockhi late last year, when late weather warnings meant many fisherman drowned at sea and many others were never accounted for, but coastal fishermen have been using their boats to help rescue those isolated in flooded inland areas.

''They are selfless people,'' Mr Sankar said.

He last spoke with his mother about a week ago, when it was still raining.

The rain had now stopped and things were improving, but the work of trying to get things back to normal would be ''huge''.

Dirty water also meant there was still danger from disease.

''They [the people of Kerala] will need a lot of help from the international community,'' he said.

Mr Sankar is from the city of Thrissur, about 50km inland, and his and his wife's families were in hilly areas, so they were not as badly hit as people in lower-lying parts of the district.

''Of course, they are affected by the flooding but their homes are all right.

''They can't drive anywhere because so many roads have been damaged. But at least we know they are safe.

''The monsoon season always means a lot of rain, although it has been different -unpredictable - this year, '' Mr Sankar said.

Instead of relatively short-lived downpours, heavy rain had continued for several days at a time, causing severe widespread flooding which had so far resulted in 360 deaths, many linked to health conditions.

People did not expect the rain to continue and moved upstairs as the water rose and flooded lower floors. That created problems for rescuers.

The last time there was such a serious disaster in Kerala was in 1924, Mr Sankar said. In July of that year, the Periyar River burst its banks, resulting in massive flooding and the loss of thousands of lives.

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