Unprepared: Heavy rain led to the collapse of section of a highway in Mahad, Maharashtra. Several death have been reported due to flooding and landslides in India this monsoon | Photo: The New York Times

Floods, landslides kill hundreds in India; experts blame climate change for intense monsoon

Landslides, flooding and cloud bursts claimed the lives of many in India this past fortnight, especially in Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa. In Maharashtra, 164 people have died as of July 26 and more than two lakh people have been evacuated from areas battered by floods. The district of Ratnagiri broke a 40-year-old record for most rainfall in July.  It received 1,781mm of rain between July 1 and July 22, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The average rainfall for this region is 972.5mm. Mumbai witnessed short bursts of intense rain that wreaked havoc in the city, with several areas severely waterlogged. One of these intense spells late at night on July 17 triggered landslides in the suburbs of Chembur and Vikhroli that claimed at least 22 lives.

According to the IMD, between July 10 and July 23, Goa received rainfall that was 122%  above average. It recorded 1043.7mm of rainfall in this time period when the normal average is 471mm.  In Himachal Pradesh, nine tourists were killed after rocks and heavy boulders crushed the vehicle they were travelling in because of a landslide on July 25. Uttarakhand also reported several landslides this past month. Experts linked these extreme weather events and erratic rainfall patterns such as the kind seen in Mumbai to climate change. Despite spells of extreme weather, rainfall distribution has remained inconsistent with around a third of the country currently registering deficit rainfall for the season.

Floods kill 33 in China’s central province of Henan; lakhs evacuated

At least 33 people died in China’s central province of Henan after rain led to landslides and floods. Social media was flooded with images of Zhengzhou’s partially submerged underground rail system. Twelve people drowned due to the flooding. Lakhs of people were evacuated in Henan and soldiers were deployed to carry out emergency rescues and diversions.  

Floods in Germany expose country’s ill-preparedness to tackle extreme weather events

Severe flooding in West Germany in the beginning of July, which killed 200 people, exposed the ill-preparedness of the government to tackle extreme weather situations. Residents pointed to the failure of the warning systems and complained they were not given messages to prepare for the intense rainfall. Roads, houses and bridges were unable to withstand the intensity of the rain, especially in 2 of the worst-hit states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia.

A recent study found floods of this magnitude will only increase with a rise in global heating. Slow-moving storms such as the one that caused the floods in Germany are likely to become 14 times more frequent by the end of the century, according to the study.

Wildfires rage in US’ Oregon, Siberian city of Yakutsk

Oregon reported the US’ largest active wildfire last week, which burned through more than 3,50,000 acres of land. The fire joins more than 80 other fires burning through the US, which have been triggered by unusually high temperatures and high winds. 

The Siberian city of Yakutsk, one of the coldest regions in the world, reported a heatwave that sparked blazing forest fires. Experts called it one of the world’s worst air pollution events as the smoke is believed to contain dangerous levels of particulate matter, ozone, benzene and hydrogen cyanide. Around 3,20,000 residents have been advised to stay indoors. 

Elsewhere massive wildfires were also reported from British Columbia in Canada, Spain and the Italian island of Sardinia. While the northwest of Turkey was ravaged by floods, large wildfires in southern Turkey killed three and injured hundreds of people.

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