Visuals of water gushing through homes, roads and other landscapes from Kerala have been doing the rounds for over a week. Heavy rains began lashing the state from August 8 and have already claimed 164 lives.
As rescue operations continue on a war-footing and rains are expected to abate from Sunday, it is also important to think about the health hazards of waterlogging and prevention of water-borne illnesses if you are stranded, and even during clean-up operations.
Here is a list of do’s and don'ts based on our conversations with doctors and online resources. Most of these are home remedies that you can execute even without power and medical supply.
For drinking water
If you have no access to drinking water, place containers on your terrace to collect rainwater. This can then be boiled and filtered for use.
It’s also a good idea to use a saree as a filter. This can reduce the chance of cholera and other water-borne diseases. This has proved to be an effective method of filtration in flood-ravaged countries like Bangladesh, researchers from the US have stablished.
While boiling water and then filtering it would be more effective, in cases where people have no access to gas or heating mechanisms, filtering water using the folds of a sari is better than no filtration at all.
Precautions related to waterlogging
With sewage water getting mixed with all water sources, standing in these stagnant pools can lead to leptospirosis.
In areas where the water is knee-deep, add bleaching powder or salt to it. It works as an effective disinfectant and also prevents bacterial diseases from getting transmitted.
You should be especially careful if you have open wounds, they could get infected when exposed to flood waters. After cleaning, try and cover these wounds with a waterproof bandage.
Also take care to not touch electrical equipment if your hands or clothes are wet, or if you are standing in water.
If you must walk through, try to avoid gushing water. It is also a good idea to carry a stick to check the path ahead of you for bumps and holes.
Precautions related to food
Have freshly cooked food that's been heated to boiling point. For those with power, avoid refrigerated food to the maximum extent possible.
Sanitise your hands before and after cooking. If there is no soap and water, an alcohol-based sanitizer should work.
In case you’re running out of food
If your food stock is running low, take a litre of boiled water and add 5-6 spoons of sugar and 1 spoon of salt. Drinking this at regular intervals will help in ensuring you are hydrated.
For those with access to medicines, stock up on ORS packets to prevent diarrhea and antiemetic drugs to prevent vomiting.
To maintain hygiene and safety after the flood
As waters are expected to recede and rescue efforts are speeding up, here are some of the things you can do to ensure that you are safe and healthy after the floods:
Do not drive into flood affected areas. Even if water has receded in one area, another one may not be safe. Taking a vehicle there can put you in danger.
If water has entered your home, it is crucial to disinfect as much as possible. Flood water contains sewage and pathogens that can case water-borne diseases.
If there is debris, be mindful of snakes and other animals which may have taken refuge there.
Check for gas leaks. Avoid lighting matches and using electric appliances unless you are sure there is no fire hazard in flood-affected residences and facilities.
Follow TNM's live blog on Kerala floods here.
Note: In case you are looking for someone stranded in Kerala or have information about someone, use this 'Person Finder', which crowdsources information, to help.