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Prolonged Monsoon season causes widespread floods, killing at least 139 in northern India


Heavy rains battered Uttar Pradesh and Bihar since September 27, 2019, causing severe floods in which at least 139 people lost their lives. The country's monsoon season usually ends by early September, but the harsh weather has continued and is forecasted to extend up to the second week of October.

Several districts in Bihar were affected by floods, including Buxar, Bhojpur, Samastipur, Lakhisarai, Begusarai, Khagaria, Bhagalpur, Munger, and Saran.

River Ganga and its major tributaries such as Punpun and Burhi Gandak have already swept low-lying areas near the banks, and are posing risks to safety embankments in the districts of Bhojpur, Saran, Sitamarhi, and Muzaffarpur.

While the number of confirmed fatalities has risen to 139, some residents fear that the body count might be over 250.

Disruptions to traffic, healthcare establishments, and schools occurred following the floods. The Disaster Management Department of Bihar has deployed over 1 000 boats in 11 affected districts.

About 900 inmates were also shifted from a prison in eastern Ballia district after rising water levels posed risks, according to police officer Santos Verma.

On September 27, the state of Uttar Pradesh had a record rainfall which is 1 700% above normal. The eastern parts of the state were the worst-hit. Meanwhile, the government offered to provide ₹400 000 ($5 662) to the families of the victims who died.

Utter Pradesh and several areas in Bihar are still under red alert with a chance of heavy to very heavy rainfall in the following days.

Among those stranded in Patna was Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi, who was rescued from his flood-stricken home.

India's Meteorological Department (IMD) also said that the severity of rainfall over Bihar was very likely to reduce. So far, the precipitation is 10% more than the usual, which makes this year's rains the highest in 25 years.

"While the rainfall over India is 10% above normal, it has been 32% above normal for Maharashtra in the current monsoon season," IMD said.

"The southwest monsoon arrived late over the Indian subcontinent this year. At the end of June, the rainfall deficit was of 33%. Today, it is 10% more than normal."

Despite the late monsoon onset and huge deficiency of rain in June, the seasonal rainfall ended above the normal category, IMD added. This is the country's highest rainfall this monsoon since 1994.

"Normal withdrawal of southwest monsoon begins by September 1 in Rajasthan and other northern parts of India. This year, the Hikka cyclone has so far brought more showers and southwest monsoon is still here."

Furthermore, the agency reported, “IMD had predicted that the monsoon performance would be better in the second half compared to the first half. IMD’s analysis on the weakening of El Nino and the development of a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and the second half monsoon rainfall being above normal were thus proved correct. However, quantitatively, realized rainfall during the second half was more than what IMD predicted.”

Skymet weather also stated that moderate rains are expected to continue over Jharkhand and West Bengal.

This year's monsoon rains can possibly be above average for the first time in six years. The monsoon brings about 70% of India's rainfall yearly and determines the yield of rice, wheat, and sugarcane.

Featured image credit: Bhole Bhakt Baba

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