From Uttarakhand floods to cyclone Tauktae, a list of extreme weather events India witnessed in 2021

In the first seven months of this year alone, the country of 1.3 billion people experienced two cyclones, a deadly glacier collapse in the Himalayas, a sweltering heatwave and killer floods

FP Staff November 09, 2021 15:16:10 IST
From Uttarakhand floods to cyclone Tauktae, a list of extreme weather events India witnessed in 2021

Troops belonging to the National Disaster Response Force rescue people stranded in floodwaters in Udham Singh Nagar, Uttarakhand. AP

Swathes of India have battled deadly floods and landslides after heavy monsoon rains which is the latest example of how the country is on the frontline of climate change.

In the first seven months of this year alone, the country of 1.3 billion people experienced two cyclones, a deadly glacier collapse in the Himalayas, a sweltering heatwave and killer floods.

Recently, an orange alert has been sounded in Chennai FOR Tuesday and a red alert for Wednesday with IMD forecasting more rainfall in the city. Four people and 16 cattle have been killed in rain-related incidents in Chennai, Theni and Madurai districts ‘in the past 24 hours, PTI reported quoting an official release.

Also read: These 10 countries suffered the most due to natural disasters in 2020

Monsoon floods

Tamil Nadu floods

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has sounded a red alert in Tamil Nadu for the next three days, till Thursday (11 November). In its latest bulletin issued at noon on Tuesday, the IMD predicted “light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall and extremely heavy falls at isolated places” in the state.

At least five people have died in rain-related incidents across the state, while 538 huts and four houses have been damaged, KKSSR Ramachandran, State Revenue and Disaster Management Minister, said Tuesday.

Maharashtra & Goa floods

Torrential rains have hit India's western coast in early this year triggered landslides and a deluge of sludge, leaving more than 75 dead and dozens missing. The hillside resort of Mahabaleshwar reportedly saw nearly 60 centimetres (23 inches) of rain in a 24-hour period, a record.

The neighbouring resort state of Goa is reeling under its worst floods in decades, its chief minister said.

Kerala floods

At least 27 people have been killed after heavy rain triggered floods and landslides in Kerala.

As many as 42 people have died and 217 houses were destroyed due to rains, landslides and flash floods between 12  and 20 October in Kerala, said chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Flooding and landslides are common during India's treacherous monsoon season, which also often sees poorly constructed buildings buckle after days of non-stop rain.

But climate change is making the monsoon stronger, according to a report from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in April.

It warned of potentially severe consequences for food, farming and the economy affecting nearly a fifth of the world's population.

Uttarakhand floods

At least 54 people died in various incidents triggered by heavy rains and subsequent flash floods in Uttarakhand in October this year.

Melting glaciers

In February, a ferocious flash flood hurtled down a remote Himalayan valley, sweeping away homes, a hydro plant and around 200 people. Only 60 bodies have been found.

The flash floods in Uttarakhand was due to the collapse of a hanging glacier, initial observations by scientists at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology suggests. A hanging glacier is a body of ice that breaks off abruptly at the edge of a precipice or steep slope.

Experts believe the cause was a massive chunk of a glacier — 15 football fields long and five across — breaking off high in the mountains.

In the Himalayas, about 10,000 glaciers are receding at a rate of 30 to 60 metres (100 to 200 feet) per decade as global temperatures rise. In 2013, a flash flood in the same area killed 6,000 people.

Cyclones

Cyclones are not a rare sight in the northern Indian Ocean but scientists say they are becoming more frequent and severe as sea temperatures rise.

Cyclone Tauktae

In May Cyclone Tauktae claimed 155 lives on the western coast, including Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala. It was the fiercest storm to hit the area in several decades.

It became the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in the Indian state of Gujarat since the 1998 Gujarat cyclone[2] and one of the strongest tropical cyclones to ever affect the west coast of India.

Tauktae brought heavy rainfall and flash floods to areas along the coast of Kerala and on Lakshadweep. There were reports of heavy rain in the states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra as well.

Cyclone Yaas

Barely a week later Yaas, with winds the equivalent of a category two hurricane, killed at least nine people and forced the evacuation of more than 1.5 million in the east.

With waves the height of double-decker buses, hundreds of thousands lost their houses. "I have lost my home, everything," said one survivor.

Cyclone Gulab

At least 11 people died in Maharashtra due to heavy rains in the state caused by Cyclone Gulab, PTI reported. As many as 10 people were killed in floods in the Marathwada region while one more was killed after a bus got swept away in Yavatmal district.

Hotter and hotter

India's average temperature rose around 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) between the beginning of the 20th century and 2018. It will rise another 4.4 degrees by 2100, according to a government report.

In early July, tens of millions of people sizzled in just the latest heatwave across northern India.

India's weather department has declared a heatwave almost every year in the last decade with temperatures sometimes touching 50 degrees Celsius.

The Hindustan Times newspaper reported that heatwaves had claimed more than 17,000 lives in India since 1971, according to top meteorologists.

Currently, just five percent of Indian households have air conditioning compared with 90 percent in the United States and 60 percent in China.

But the market is forecast to boom in the coming years, driving up energy consumption in what is already the world's third-largest carbon emitter.

Lightning

The monsoon from June to September also brings danger from the skies. In 2019, lightning strikes killed almost 3,000 people.

In July, lightning strikes killed at least 67 people across Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Sixteen people were killed when lightning struck them on a hill near the Amer Fort in Rajasthan’s Jaipur city. The incident took place when people were taking selfies at a watch tower amid rain.

But scientists say climate change may be making lightning more frequent. A recent study said strikes rose 34 percent in the past year.

And it's not just people. In May, lightning was blamed for the deaths of at least 18 elephants in Assam.

With inputs from agencies

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