The deadliest deluge in close to a century has claimed more than 400 lives. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said more than 33,000 people have been rescued by different agencies. Over 7.24 lakh people are staying in the 5,645 relief camps. Kerala's CM had earlier said 2 million people had taken shelter in camps since the monsoon rains began three months ago.
The worst affected districts were Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur.
By the end of the deluge when everyone was rescued, the aftermath was overwhelming. Social Welfare Department issued an urgent requirement of approximately 5000 pieces of wheelchairs, crutches and hearing aids each to support its efforts across Kerala. There is need of 40,000 volunteers, 20,000 pairs of Gumboots and 22,000 pairs of Gloves for its efforts in Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Thrissur and Wayanad districts.
The state prepares to mount a massive rehabilitation process for the displaced. The hilly district of Idukki has been hit the hardest with 51 deaths and 10 still missing, followed by Thrissur which has reported 43 deaths, Ernakulam (38), Alapuzha (34) and Malappuram (30).
Donations pour like rains
Almost in every city and town, donations were collected for the people of Kerala. Companies had donation boxes installed at offices while the DTH operators and digital wallet Paytm had an option – donate for Kerala on their websites. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also wanted to give ` 700 crore but the central government refused to accept as it thought the help below dignity. The service officers of telecom department donated one-day salary for the relief.
Star India donated ` 2 crore to the Kerala Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund as its contribution towards relief and rehablitiation in the rain ravaged state, while Asianet employees gave `25 lakh for the cause. Star India has also partnered with Non-Governmental Organisation 'Goonj' to provide grains and pulses. The broadcaster is also telecasting campaigns across its 50 channels, urging viewers to contribute for Kerala.
Star India, Chairman and CEO, Uday Shankar said. "In an endeavour to support the ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts in Kerala, we are mobilising funds and creating public awareness through the reach of our network."
Flood ravages cable TV operations
On 22 August, the Kochi based Cable TV Operators Association (COA) of Kerala wrote a letter to cable TV trade nationally. President of COA K. Vijayakrishanan said in the letter that the situation is still worse despite flood water receding. He wrote, “Power and cable lines were damaged extensively and distribution is totally disrupted. Overhead fibre amplifiers, transmitters, and related cable equipment as well as cable have been washed away. Equipment like amplifiers, nodes, EDFAs for optical fibre network need to be restored.”
As per MSO Kerala Communicators Cable Ltd (KCCL), it suffered damage worth ` 60 crore. As per rough estimates, complete damage to all MSOs there due to flood and rain stands at ` 150 crore. Head-ends of many LCOs were washed away. Shaji Mathews, CEO, KCCL, said that several LCOs have been affected.”
Nearly 4 lakh STBs were damaged, as per local cable operators.
The worst affected areas for cable TV operations were Pathanamthitta, Wayanad, Idduki, Allepey, Trichur, Ernakulam. But the MSOs and LCOs are as brave as the rest of Kerala and said that the cable TV trade is not going to allow this fury of nature to bog them down. The COA has started its campaign making appeals to other MSOs and operators in other states and less affected areas to contribute optical fibre cable, EDFAs, nodes, coax fibre, amplifiers, or monetary assistance.
COA has committed to put `1.5 crore in the till to assist affected LCOs even as KCCL is putting up a similar amount. Additionally, technical support and equipment is being hauled from unaffected operations to badly affected ones to bring the networks up back and running.
“Operators will get back on their feet. The trade will get back with support from one and all,” said a cable TV operator.
News Channels reigned in Kerala
Though cable TV operations were severely affected in the state, as per the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India ratings for week 32, the incessant rains that lashed Kerala has kept viewers in the state hooked on to their television sets as they are solely relying on the medium to keep track of the flood situation. BARC said that with 214.1 million Impressions, Week 32 (4-10 August) saw the highest peak for the Malayalam News genre in 2018. The genre saw a 98 per cent growth in the week compared to the average of the previous four weeks.
As per data, the state has a total TV population of close to 31.3 million. Out of this, around 25.8 million people watched Malayalam news in week 32. This means that 8 out of 10 people in the state sampled news in week 32. Out of the state’s total TV viewership, 17 percent came from Malayalam News Genre alone, with every viewer spending an average of 1 hr 3 mins watching news.
The viewership recorded in this period was the highest for the year in the Kerala market as can be inferred from the chart below. August 10, 2018 alone accounted for 34 per cent of the total news viewership for the week at 72.8 million impressions.
Asianet News stood at the top with 36 per cent of total news viewership, Manorama News, Media One TV, People TV and News18 Kerala also gained more than two times the average ratings of its previous four weeks. This is the second highest viewership peak recorded for Malayalam news genre since BARC India started measuring TV viewership. The highest so far was 215.1 million Impressions generated on the back of coverage of molestation case filed against a leading actor in the Malayalam film industry.
Rebuilding will be a big challenge
Though by 20 August, the flood waters receded to some point in Kerala, the focus has now shifted from relief operations to rebuilding. The trail of destruction is too long. As per rough estimates, 10,000km of roads as well as 100,000 houses will need to be rebuilt.
Experts say that the central government should allow foreign countries to offer help in rebuilding rather than giving cash, as the reconstruction work will need something more than voluntary effort. Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sought ` 2,600 crore from the Union government to help his government rebuild the state. Till now only `600 crore were given.
The central government should also allow Kerala to borrow more from the bond market. The Reserve Bank of India could also offer immediate liquidity support through a special ways and means advances (WMA) window, as per experts. Also, the central government can waive taxes.
The government of Kerala too needs to think differently to ward off future catastrophe.