India flood crisis mounts as 324 confirmed dead

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Flood affected people are rescued in a tractor, right as volunteers go for rescue work in a truck, left, at Kainakary in Alappuzha district, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. (AP)
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Indian volunteers and rescue personal evacuate local residents in a residential area at Aluva in Ernakulam district, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 17, 2018. (AFP)
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People are airlifted by the Indian Navy soldiers during a rescue operation at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. (REUTERS)
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People help a woman disembark from an Indian Navy helicopter at a relief camp after being rescued from a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Indian navy and rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an boat at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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Indian volunteers and rescue personnel evacuate local residents in a boat in a residential area at Kozhikode, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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Fire and Rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an inflatable boat from a flooded area at Muppathadam near Eloor in Kochi's Ernakulam district, in the Indian state of Kerala on August 15, 2018. (AFP)
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Fire and Rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an inflatable boat from a flooded area at Muppathadam near Eloor in Kochi's Ernakulam district, in the Indian state of Kerala on August 15, 2018. Indian authorities on August 15 suspended all flights at Kochi international airport for three days as severe monsoon flooding took a growing toll in Kerala state. (AFP)
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Indian fire and rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an boat flooded following monsoon rains at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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Indian commuters travel in a truck to a safer place as flood waters ravaged the National Highway 47 in Ernakulam district of Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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An Indian man walks through the premises of a hospital that was flooded due to heavy rains in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala state, India, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. (AP)
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Submerged vehicles on a flooded street are pictured following monsoon rains in Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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India residents stand on the shore as Periyar river flooded following monsoon rains at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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People wait to be rescued in a country boat in a flooded area at Kainakary in Alappuzha district, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. (AP)
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A boy swims through flood waters to crossover to his house on the outskirts of Kozhikode district, about 385 km north of Trivandrum, in the south Indian state of Kerala, on August 17, 2018. (AFP)
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Indian navy and rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an boat at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2018
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India flood crisis mounts as 324 confirmed dead

  • More than 10,000 kilometers of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state
  • A heavy rainfall ‘red-alert’ has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people

KOCHI, India: The death toll from floods that have triggered landslides and sent torrents sweeping through villages in the Indian state of Kerala trebled Friday to 324, authorities said, amid warnings of worse weather to come.
Hundreds of troops and local fishermen are staging desperate rescue attempts with helicopters and boats across the southern state, which draws international tourists to its tropical hills and beaches.
Kerala has been battered by record monsoon rainfall this year and is “facing the worst floods in 100 years,” chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a Twitter statement, adding that 324 lives had been lost so far.
With thousands still trapped, power and communication lines down and fresh alerts of further torrential rain, authorities warned of more trouble ahead and further deaths to come.
“We are deploying more boats and the army to ramp up rescue operations,” senior state government official P.H. Kurian told AFP.
More than 30 military helicopters and 320 boats are attempting rescues across Kerala.
Authorities said thousands of people have been taken to safety so far but 6,000 more are still waiting for rescue.
Helicopters have also been dropping emergency food and water supplies, while special trains carrying drinking water have been sent to Kerala.

According to India’s weather bureau, since the beginning of June more than 321 centimeters (126 inches) of rain has fallen on the hilly central Kerala district of Idukki, which is now virtually cut off from the rest of the state.
With no end in sight to the deluge, people all over the state of 33 million have made panic-stricken appeals on social media for help, saying they cannot make contact with rescue services.
“My family and neighboring families are in trouble,” wrote Ajo Varghese, a resident of the coastal city of Alappuzha, in a Facebook post that quickly went viral.
“No water and food. Not able to communicate from afternoon. Mobile phones are not reachable... Please help,” he added.

Other messages have been sent from people trapped inside temples and hospitals as well as their homes.
The Kerala government has said it faces an “extremely grave” crisis and state chief minister Vijayan warned of a further rainfall hitting the battered region over the weekend. Strong winds have also been predicted for Saturday and Sunday.
The gates of dozens of dams and reservoirs across the state have been opened as water levels reach danger levels, inundating many other villages.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the stricken state on Friday night, Vijayan’s office tweeted, with media reports saying the premier would undertake an aerial survey of the worst affected areas on Saturday.
North and central Kerala have been worst-hit by the floods with the international airport in the main city of Kochi shut until at least August 26.
At least 310,000 people displaced from across the state are taking shelter in more than 2,000 relief camps.
On top of tourist cancelations, Kerala’s valuable rubber industry has been badly hit by the floods.
The government says 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged, along with thousands of homes.
Reports said electricity supplies to more than half the state have been cut. The state power company said that only one million people were affected, however.
The home ministry announced separately that 868 people have been reported dead in seven Indian states including Kerala since the start of the monsoon in June.

 


Europe’s solutions to migration create humanitarian crises

Updated 19 September 2018
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Europe’s solutions to migration create humanitarian crises

One of Europe’s main solutions to migration — Greece’s overcrowded, unsanitary Moria migrant camp — has suicidal children and conditions that a psychiatrist compared to “an old-fashioned mental asylum.”
In another heavily criticized solution to immigration, imprisoned men and women have been shuttled away from one gunbattle only to end up incarcerated on the front line of another, vulnerable to both trafficking and new abuse.
The jammed Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos and the dangerous migrant detention centers in Libya serve as a sober reminder to European leaders that their statistical success in curbing migration into the continent has spawned what the UN and others condemn as massive humanitarian failures. Deeply divided over how and where to control Europe’s borders, leaders are meeting Wednesday in a summit in Austria.
Migrant sea arrivals to Europe have plummeted this year, but each journey now carries increasing risks of death or indefinite detention in squalid conditions. More than 1,700 people have already died on Mediterranean crossings this year.
Abbas Elnaser, an Iraqi who arrived in Moria about three weeks ago, said his 8-year-old daughter’s health had always been frail and she was deteriorating quickly in the camp that was built for 3,100 but now houses over 9,000 people.
“She has problems breathing most of the time, she has problems in her lungs,” he said. “The tent is surrounded by garbage.”
In the central Mediterranean, Europe has effectively outsourced sea rescues of migrants to the Libyan coast guard, whose boats have returned 13,000 migrants to Libyan detention centers this year. In some of those centers around the Libyan capital of Tripoli, migrants ended up on the front lines of gunbattles as militias fought for control of the city.
At one point in the fighting, detainees abandoned by their jailers for days broke out of at least one center but ended up caught in gunbattle. A half-dozen people were shot, according to Ibrahim Younis, head of the Libya mission for the aid group Doctors without Borders.
As a Tripoli cease-fire brokered by the UN threatens to fracture, food for the detainees there is dwindling. Libyan officials complain that both they and the migrants have been largely abandoned by Europe. In the Janzour detention center, around 900 people were crammed into a space intended for half that many.
“We have difficulties in providing subsistence, difficulties in providing food, and difficulties in sheltering them,” said 1st Lt. Jamal Hussain. The government, which runs the facility, refused to allow an Associated Press journalist to speak to detainees.
The official number of asylum-seekers and refugees in detention in Libya is around 5,000, but thousands more are believed to be captive in warehouses and other buildings, where there have been widespread reports of slavery, sexual abuse and other atrocities.
This month the UN broke its silence over Europe’s policy of allowing the Libyan coast guard to intercept migrants, saying it was untenable and putting thousands of people at risk of being jailed indefinitely in inhumane conditions. Detailing allegations of torture, sexual abuse, violence and “nightmarish” conditions, the UN refugee agency said Libya doesn’t remotely meet the criteria “as a place of safety.”
In all, around 56,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are registered with the UN in Libya and neighboring Niger, which have accepted millions of euros in exchange for European promises to evaluate a portion for resettlement.
But, critics say, resettlement simply isn’t happening. A total of 657 people had left for resettlement in Europe as of last week, out of 3,886 slots promised over a year ago in 11 European countries and Canada.
Meanwhile, the Libyan and Greek detention centers continue to fill, with migrants and refugees waiting a year or more for a decision in their cases. That, however, suits many anti-immigrant populists in Europe just fine.
“Until the message is made abundantly clear that illegal economic migrants will not be processed, that boats will be turned back, thousands and thousands more sad and desperate lives will be lost in vain, all for your feelings of virtue,” said Nathan Gill, a British member of the European parliament, accusing fellow legislators last week of being soft on immigration. “You’re not really helping people.”
If migrants have made it to the Greek island of Lesbos, they’re already one step ahead of those trapped in Libya. But conditions are hardly better. Raw sewage flows out the main entrance in Moria, garbage piles up outside the containers where igrants sleep.
Luca Fontana, who works for Doctors without Borders in Lesbos, said a quarter of the minors there had either attempted suicide, had suicidal thoughts or were harming themselves.
“Only last week had to suture the wrists of a couple of unaccompanied minors, they tried to cut their veins inside Moria camp,” he said.
Psychiatrist Alessandro Barbero of Doctors without Borders said Moria was as grim as “an old-fashioned mental asylum, not seen in parts of Europe since the mid-twentieth century.”
Any hope of an easy solution to Europe’s immigration dilemma has faded.
Paolo Campana, who has studied the smuggling networks that lead through Libya, believes a solution is only possible if legal migration into Europe opens up at the same time as peace, stability and prosperity emerge in violence-plagued nations like Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
“We need to be humanitarian and to be pragmatic,” he said.
As of last week, 73,696 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea this year along with over 11,000 land arrivals, compared with 128,993 sea arrivals in 2017 and 298,663 in 2016.
European leaders in June proposed creating centers to process migrants in North Africa but those governments quickly rejected the idea. The EU now is pitching plans of an upgraded border force.
Last week, Austria and Italy’s right-wing interior ministers called for shipboard screenings of migrants on the Mediterranean, raising new questions about whose ships and where — given that Italy has blocked humanitarian groups from docking with migrants rescued at sea, favoring Libyan boats instead.
Trying to tackle the enormous problem at Moria, Greece on Tuesday agreed to transfer 2,000 asylum-seekers from the camp on Lesbos to the mainland this month. The move that can’t come soon enough for the migrants there. Ali Sajjad Faizy, a 19-year-old from Afghanistan, said conditions at Moria have steadily worsened and residents must stand in line “for four or five” hours just to get food.
“It’s completely full,” he said.