Toronto resident stuck in Kerala recounts days in flooded neighbourhood


A Toronto resident visiting family in the Indian state of Kerala says major floods in the region left him and his relatives largely confined to a home without power for days as flooded roads prevented them from leaving their neighbourhood. Levi Joseph said his family’s plans to return to Canada this week also had to be postponed as the closest airport is flooded.

“We were all locked in, and we didn’t have electricity for four days,” Joseph, 28, said in a phone interview. “We didn’t have network connections … You can’t speak to anyone, you can’t text anyone.”  Annual monsoon rains were already underway in Kerala when the state was hit by torrential downpours beginning Aug. 8.

Authorities said intense floods have killed more than 200 people and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes. On Monday, the Indian military said subsiding rains had led them to scale down rescue operations.

Joseph, who has been living in Toronto for two years, said he flew to the state where he was born and raised with his wife and other relatives on Aug. 8.

“It rained every morning until night, continuously, for three days,” he said. “The neighbourhood is covered by water.”

Floods washed away roads around his family’s home in the Pathanamthitta district, one of the areas heavily impacted by the downpours, he said.

“The Indian army came and they closed all the ways, so you cannot go anywhere,” he said.

The house then lost power for four days, he said, explaining that the family used an old kerosene lamp for light at night and relied largely on root vegetables grown on their property for meals.

“I was scared,” Joseph said. “All I heard was ambulance sounds, helicopters.”

After flood waters receded and roadways were re-opened after being closed for about a week, Joseph said he and his family went over the weekend to a relief camp set up for those displaced from their homes to hand out blankets and other supplies.

“When you give them food, when you give them clothes, the look they give you….it’s like they’ve got something from someone they didn’t expect,” he said. “They’ve lost everything.”

Joseph and his family are now hoping to return to Canada on Sept. 12 after floods closed the airport they were planning to fly out of on Aug. 26.

Smitha Das, a Brampton, Ont., resident visiting family in Kerala, is in a similar situation. She was supposed to travel back to Canada with her 11-month-old daughter last week but said the flight was cancelled because of the flooded Cochin International Airport.

While frustrated about currently being on a wait list for a flight, Das said she feels lucky she and her family are safe.

“Never ever in my lifetime have I ever seen such a destruction,” the 36-year-old said. “I am praying for others.”

— with files from The Associated Press

Olivia Bowden , The Canadian Press