Floods had major share in disasters in 50 yrs

A total of 7,063 extreme weather events were found to have occurred in the country in the last five decades. These events caused 1,41,308 deaths, with an average of 20 deaths per event.

New Delhi: Floods had a major share in disaster events in India, being responsible for the death of over 65,143 people in the last 50 years. This was especially so in 2019 when an abnormal increase in extreme weather events was experienced, according to a recent study published by the countrys top weather experts.

The study has been conducted by Ministry of Earth Sciences Secretary M. Rajeevan, Advisor Kamaljit Ray, Scientist R.K. Giri, S.S. Ray and A.P. Dimri. Based on the data of the India Meteorological Department between 1970-2019, it analyzed various major disaster events and their relation with the trend of mortalities for better disaster management.

As per the results, a total of 7,063 extreme weather events were found to have occurred in the country in the last five decades. These events caused 1,41,308 deaths, with an average of 20 deaths per event. Among them, floods were the most frequent, followed by lightning, heat waves, and cold waves.

According to the study, cyclones were the least frequent disaster in 50 years. Out of these extreme weather events, floods were responsible for maximum mortality with 46.1 per cent, followed by tropical cyclones with 28.6 per cent mortality. Lightning had the lowest mortality of 6.3 per cent.

On comparison of mortalities per event, the tropical cyclones were more destructive with an average of 345 deaths per event compared to any other extreme weather events. The lowest mortality occurred with lightning, having only 3.5 deaths per event.

“The total number of mortalities attributed to EWEs, since 1970, is just 0.038 per cent of the mortalities due to all causes in India considering 7.2 per 1,000, as the crude mortality rate. Globally the EWEs are known to contribute only 0.06 per cent to the total global mortality,” stated the paper published in ScienceDirect.com.

However, over the decades, despite a significant rise in extreme weather events, there has been a decrease in the mortality rate, it said, adding that the number of mortalities per event had a significant negative trend for heat waves and floods, during the last 50 years.

The total extreme weather events had a mortality rate of 3.86 during 1980-1999 and it reduced to 2.14 during 2000-2019. The mortality rate of tropical cyclones reduced by 94 per cent in the past 20 years, whereas for heat waves and lightning it increased by 62.2 per cent and 52.8 per cent.

In India, among the major states, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Kerala, and Maharashtra were found to be having maximum mortality rates due to extreme weather events in the last two decades.

This study holds importance as the increased number of extreme weather events in the recent decades have highly impacted various regions of the country, leading to loss of lives and property and adversely affecting the livelihood of the vulnerable communities.

In 2019, an abnormal increase in disaster events was experienced. The country recorded 73 heat wave spells against a normal of 17, excess rainfall leading to floods in central India, 11 tropical cyclones over the Indian Ocean as against two.

The year ended with extreme cold wave spells in northern India. In 2021 as well, it is too early to call it summer but some places in India are already on the boil.

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