As world leaders meet in Paris to try to find a solution to climate change, parts of the world are already feeling the worst effects. Over the past week, southern India has been victim to horrific floods that have killed at least several hundred people.
The southeast Indian state of Tamil Nadu and its capital, Chennai, have suffered the most. Many parts of the city are submerged in eight to 10 feet of water, trapping citizens on rooftops and in relief camps with limited supplies of food and water.
October through December is "retreating monsoon" season in India, when southeast areas of the country see the heaviest rains. With the combination of an El Niño year and the effects of global warming, this year’s rainfall has been at devastating levels. India’s Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar, told Indian newspaper The Hindu that he blamed the heavy flooding on climate change caused by industrialized nations. “What is happening in Chennai is the result of what has happened for 150 years in the developed world. That is what has caused 0.8 degrees Celsius temperature rise,” he said.
According to The World Bank, India is incredibly vulnerable to climate change. The nation has already seen threatening effects of climate change, with increased temperatures and sea levels along with “extreme” weather events. Those trends are only projected to increase further in the 21st century. Monsoon rainfall, like what caused this week’s horrific flooding, is expected to increase by up to 40% by the end of this century.
It’s an increase that the people of India can’t handle. CBS News reports that this week’s flooding has killed nearly 300 people in Chennai alone, including 18 patients of the city's hospital, who died when flooding knocked out the facility's power. Some people have been killed by electric shocks from flooded power boxes, leading authorities to cut off electricity in some areas in the name of public safety. The flood waters are also filling up with dangerous sewage, due to poor drainage in the city, breeding the possibility of dangerous illness and contamination.
As the waters begin to recede, people are braving the possibility of moving about, but risks are still high. Here’s what the tragedy looks like to those who are living through it.