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NASA satellite photos show flood devastation in Kerala, India

Global News logo Global News 2018-08-28 Josh K. Elliott
This satellite photo shows the Indian state of Kerala on Aug. 22, 2018, two weeks after heavy rains flooded the area. © European Space Agency/Sentinel 2 This satellite photo shows the Indian state of Kerala on Aug. 22, 2018, two weeks after heavy rains flooded the area.

New satellite photos show the widespread devastation catastrophic flooding has inflicted on the Indian state of Kerala.

The before-and-after photos released by NASA on the weekend show how far inland the floodwaters have spread since monsoon rains hit Kerala on Aug. 8.

The first photo was captured on Feb. 6, 2018 while the 'after' photo was taken on Aug. 22, two weeks after the rain began. Both images show vegetation in green and water in blue, NASA says.

The latter image shows many of the rivers connected to Vembanad Lake have overrun their banks.

Water from the Karuvannur river has flooded dozens of villages and washed away a 2.2-kilometre stretch of land connecting two national highways, according to local media reports.

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The rain also flooded the Cochin International Airport, forcing it to shut down for two weeks. The airport is preparing to resume "full-scale operations" at 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday, according to a statement on its website.

Nearly 400 people have died and 800,000 have been forced from their homes amid the worst flood to hit Kerala in a century.

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Kerala received over 40 per cent more rain than it typically does during monsoon season, officials said. The rainfall stressed dozens of dams in the region, forcing authorities to release some of the water they were holding back.

The flooding has caused at least US$3 billion in damage, the state's finance minister says.

Rapid deforestation and unplanned development left Kerala vulnerable to flooding, according to Chandra Bhushan, of the Centre for Science and Environment think tank.

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"The floods were inevitable," he told Reuters. "But the impact in Kerala was exacerbated by human influence: bad dam management, bad planning, deforestation and destruction of natural habitats."

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has promised to build a "new Kerala" in the wake of the flooding. He told the Indian Express newspaper that the focus will be on building new structures, not on rebuilding old ones.

"We have to be more cautious," Vijayan said.

"We have to take steps to prevent such occurrences. Calamities would haunt us in the future, too."

Vijayan refused to indicate whether he thought the disaster was man-made, or whether it could have been avoided.

"We have done our maximum," he told the Indian Express last week. "Calamity is a calamity and we have to face it. I don't intend to create or take part in any of these controversies."

— With files from Reuters

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