The Chennai floods have led to more than 280 deaths and thousands injured. With water submerging parked cars and even flyovers at certain points, the sheer scale of devastation and disaster brought back memories of the floods in Jammu & Kashmir in 2014, which led to a similar number of deaths.
However, the Uttarakhand flood in 2013 was India’s worst in recent times, claiming more than 5,500 lives. Connections are already being made to changes in global weather patterns. At the ongoing COP21 in Paris, NGOs and environmental activists are debating as to how India is a victim of the changing climate patterns due to enormous carbon emissions by developed countries.
While more research needs to be conducted to establish a direct link, natural disasters claim more than 20,000 lives each year.
Lives lost due to natural disasters reduced by 20% in the past five years – from 25,066 deaths in 2010 to 20,201 in 2014. Floods accounted for only 2.6% of deaths in 2014.
Though a majority of deaths each year are attributed under “Other natural causes”, lightning among them has proved to be a major killer with seven deaths per day over the past five years. In an interview to the Wall Street Journal, Sunil Pawar, a scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, attributed it to higher temperatures, which tend to exacerbate the severity of thunderstorms when they happen.
Unfortunately, despite causing significant deaths each year, lightning as a cause has not been given much attention by governments.
After lightning, heat and exposure to cold are the major causes for deaths. More than 5,700 people have died due to extreme heat in the past five years while 4,600 deaths were due to exposure to cold. In fact, 2015 will be India’s hottest year according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), and the months September, October and November have been the hottest ever since temperatures have been recorded (since 1901).
Therefore, it is of no surprise that 2015 has been an exceptionally devastating year with more than 2,000 deaths due to the extreme heat (though the official data isn’t yet out), which is the highest since 1998, which saw 2,541 deaths. This year, the heat wave was so intense that it melted the roads in Delhi. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were the most severely affected.
Some 913 people died in India in 2014 due to cold. The 2015 winter is just setting in and its impact remains to be seen.
Featured image credit: PTI. Data source for all charts: National Crime Records Bureau.