As It Happens

'No land to be found' as India's Kerala state faces worst flooding in a century

Nancy Prabhakar said neither she, her parents or even her grandparents have ever experienced flooding like what's happening in India's Kerala state right now.

More than 320 people have died in India since monsoon season began — at least 164 in the last 9 days

People use an inflatable boat to reach a safer place in the flooded waters of Kochi, Kerala state, India, on Thursday. (Prakash Elamakkara/EPA-EFE)
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Nancy Prabhakar said neither she, her parents or even her grandparents have ever experienced flooding like what's happening in India's Kerala state right now.

"Kerala state is facing its worst flood in 100 years," the office of top state elected official, Pinarayi Vijayan, tweeted.

He told reporters the floods have killed at least 324 people in India since monsoon season began three months ago — including about 164 in Kerala in the last nine days.

Rescuers used helicopters and boats on Friday to evacuate thousands of people stranded on their rooftops following unprecedented flooding in the southern Indian state.

Prabhakar, who works for Kerala state's Red Cross, spoke to As It Happens guest host Matt Galloway from Thiruvananthapuram.

Here is part of their conversation.

Describe what it's looked like in Kerala over the past few days?

The complete place, almost 80 percentage of the place in the Kerala state, is flooded with water. And the water is up to the second-floor level.

It is completely full of water. There is no land to be found.

An aerial view shows partially submerged houses and church at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala. (Sivaram V./Reuters)

Tell me more about where people are seeking refuge.

We are finding some places where the water level is not bad. We are finding relief camps there and we are accommodating people there.

What about your house? What is the state of your home?

I am kind of in a protected area, so I am fine. I'm safe.

A man uses a makeshift float to paddle in a flooded street in Kochi on Aug. 10. (Prakash Elamakkara/PA-EFE)

There are different reports about how many people have died because of these floods. How difficult is it to find out how many people have died because of this flooding?

It's not confirmed because the people who are in the [flood], they were in their homes, and they were in an unexpected flood. They were not [able] to escape.

So the latest report is that dead bodies were floating within the homes. 

Only after the water level comes down, really, can we finally tell how many people died.

If all the roads are washed out, how are rescue officials getting to those who need help?

Through helicopter — airlift. Now the navy, army is in the field and they are doing their rescue operation. 

They are taking these people from the flooded area and they are removing people to the relief camps.

People wait for aid on the roof of their house at a flooded area in Kerala state on Thursday. (Sivaram V./Reuters)

I had read that more than 223,000 people are in these relief camps, that they've been displaced from their homes. How are people getting food and water? Those 223,000 people, how are they getting supplies so that they can stay alive?

We, the Red Cross, its staff, as an organization are providing them food and necessary materials they require to live.

But it must be incredibly difficult to get that to the relief camps if all of the roads are washed out?

Yes, now we are planning to have a helicopter drop in the relief camps, because in today's scenario, the roads ... are impossible, and the rail transport has also stopped. 

This is an area that's very popular with tourists, but it also an area where rubber is grown, where coffee and tea and spices are grown. What concerns are there about longterm damage to those industries?

I don't know. I don't know about that because it's completely lost.

It's completely lost?

Yes, yes. Everything is underwater. Everything.

The monsoon season is a regular part of life in India. In runs from June to September. You said you've never seen anything quite like this before, though?

Yes, even my parents have not seen. When I spoke to them, even my parents or grandparents have not seen such a flood in their life. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. 

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