India

ACT Alert India: Heavy rains cause severe floods in Maharashtra

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Published
Geneva, 3 August 2005 - Heavy rains that have been falling since July 24 in the Indian state of Maharashtra have flooded the river-catchment areas around Mumbai, the country's financial capital. The city was paralyzed by the heaviest rains ever recorded in Indian history - 37 inches in one day - halting road, rail and air traffic and forcing schools to stay closed. In other parts of the state, dams overflowed, forcing the evacuation of thousands.
The death toll in the state is near 1,000. In Mumbai alone, a city of more than 15 million, hundreds have died due to landslides, drowning, electrocution in flooded streets and even by suffocating in their cars as they waited out the rains for many hours. There have been angry protests in several areas of the city where thousands have been without electricity and drinking water since the flooding.

Such scenes have never before been seen in Mumbai even though every year the city is brought to a halt for a day or two by heavy monsoon rains that drench the country between June and September and often leave hundreds dead nationwide.

The situation in parts of western Maharashtra, including Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur districts, worsened after authorities were forced to increase the discharge of water from the Koyna dam. Around 55 villages remained cut off due to torrential rains in Satara district, while about 100 flood-affected families from Karad and some 60 families in Patan tehsil have been evacuated. The administration has already issued a flood alert in Satara and Sangli districts as the weather department has predicted more rains in the next 48 hours.

People's livelihoods have been adversely affected, and there are large-scale losses of personal and public property. People belonging to vulnerable and marginalized sections are the worst off, having no fallback resources. The impact on these groups has primarily been the disruption of gainful employment and loss of food commodities. While food is available, the poor lack purchasing power. Consequently, millions of people face shortages of drinking water, hunger and lack of basic necessities such as clothing, utensils and hygiene items. This situation is detrimental to their health and dignity and requires external assistance.

The army, navy and air force have launched relief and rescue operations in the state. The state government has estimated the damage to be at Rs 20 billion (more than USD461 million), which includes the damage to agriculture, livestock, housing and infrastructure. Roads, public buildings (primary health centres, schools and administrative buildings) and water-supply systems will require repairs and restoration.

ACT member Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) has been monitoring the flood situation. CASA staff themselves working at the agency's Western zonal office in Mumbai were also stranded for up to 36 hours at various locations and were unable to reach their homes. Assessment teams have been put in place to survey the damage and needs of the affected people in the Konkan region, Thane district towns, namely the Kalyan, Vithalwadi, Ambernath, Badlapur, Panvel areas. CASA staff, along with volunteers from CASA's member churches such as the Syrian Orthodox Church, Marthoma Church, Hindustani Covenant Church, Methodist Church, Church of North India, Indian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church and institutions such as the YMCA are conducting the assessment. CASA's strategy is to put the local churches at the forefront of the relief response.

CASA will be responding to the needs of 15,000 of the most affected families in Maharashtra for the relief part of its response. Priority will be given to the most vulnerable, especially women and children.

The immediate response from CASA will be distribution of cooked food, drinking water, clothing, kitchen utensils, sleeping mats, water-storage containers, hygiene kits, dry-ration food items and educational materials. The proposed budget is approximately USD364,000.

ACT member Lutheran World Service India (LWSI) has informed the ACT Coordinating Office that they will not respond to this emergency as they have no additional capacity to spare to address another disaster in an area where LWSI is normally not operational - neither directly nor through local partners. ACT member UELCI has decided not to join the appeal and has agreed with CASA to include one of its member churches, the Indian Evangelical Lutheran Church, in its response. Therefore an Appeal (ASIN-52) will soon be issued for CASA only.

Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jessie Kgoroeadira, ACT Finance Officer (jkg@act-intl.org).

For further information please contact:
ACT Director, White Rakuba (phone +41 22 791 6033 or mobile phone + 41 79 203 6055) or ACT Program Officer, Mieke Weeda (phone +41 22 791 6035 or mobile phone +41 79 285 2916)