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Telangana floods turn deadly after a week of widespread rain, India

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After this year’s worst drought in living memory, the Indian state of Telangana was battered by a week of flooding rainfall. Heavy monsoon rains started on September 20 and claimed at least 11 lives by September 27, 2016. Neighboring countries of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra have also been affected by heavy rains and floods.

On Tuesday night, September 20, state’s capital Hyderabad received 167 mm (6.57 inches) of rain, breaking its 16-year record. Rains started around 22:00 local time and increased around midnight. Within just two hours, the city was flooded and roads turned into rivers. Heavy rains also caused lakes to breach and flood Quthbullapur and surrounding areas.

Since the beginning of the month, Hyderabad has seen 464 mm (18.26 inches) of rainfall, a 448% increase over the normal 84 mm (3.30 inches). This is now the wettest month since 1908, when floods in Hyderabad killed 15 000 people on September 28. 

Authorities are being criticized for not learning lessons of August 2000 when 240 mm (9.44 inches) of rain fell in 24 hours of August 23, flooding the city. 

After the Hyderabad floods of 2000, the Kirloskar committee went into the reasons behind the flooding and in its report submitted in 2003, pointed out that 13 500 illegal structures had come up on 390 km (242 miles) of drains. The fact that 173 km (107 miles) of that drainage network connected directly to the Musi river meant water flow was seriously impaired. The current flooding has also been exacerbated by new buildings impairing drainage systems and encroaching on water bodies.

Hyderabad, like Bengaluru, was once a city of lakes. Over the past two decades, as it transformed into a major IT centre, 169 water bodies are estimated to have been encroached upon and converted into residential colonies and commercial complexes. (Scroll.In)

As of early UTC morning of September 27, the death toll in Telangana has reached 11 people. Over 1 000 have been evacuated in several districts of the state.

In the district of Medak to the north of Hyderabad, 8 people have died and 24 workers stranded at Edupayala stream had to be airlifted to safety. Three deaths were reported in the district of Warangal, northeast of Hyderabad.

Floods in Karimnagar district, Telangana – September 2016. Credit: Office of Telangana Chief Minister

Floods in Karimnagar district, Telangana – September 2016. Credit: Office of Telangana Chief Minister

Several of the state’s dams are close to maximum levels and state’s Minister for Irrigation, Harish Rao Thanneeru, said that, excluding Nizam Sagar, all irrigation projects along the Godavari River are “full to the brim”. 

As of September 27, the water level in the Sriram Sagar dam was at 332.02 m (1 089.30 feet) of the maximum 333.15 m (1 089.73 feet). The Singur Dam stood at 523.5 m (1 717.51 feet) of maximum 523.6 m (1 717.84 feet).

As of September 28, the Nizam Sagar dam is at 428 m (1 404.2 ) feet of maximum 428.42 m (1 405.57 feet).

7 days of rainfall accumulation over India ending 12:00 UTC on September 28, 2016. Credit: NASA/TRMM

The city of Dahanu in neighboring Maharashtra, a state spanning west-central India, also received a record-breaking rain last week, shattering its 58-year record. In a 24-hour period ending 08:00 local time on Wednesday, September 21, Dahanu received a whopping 529 mm (20.8 inches) of rain. Its previous record for September was 481 mm (18.9 inches).

Featured image: Floods in Karimnagar district, Telangana. Credit: Office of Telangana Chief Minister

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