On August 16 2018, the western coastal state of Kerala in southern India faced heavy rainfall, resulting in the worst floods it had encountered in a century, displacing one million people. To ascertain the impact of the floods on livelihoods, finances, and habitat, and to understand evacuation decisions in the Indian context, we undertook a survey of over 15000 residents, making it one of the largest in-depth assessments in a post-disaster scenario in India. 

Why, when, where and how people move after disasters has been extensively studied around the world. While researchers recognize some common patterns in decision-making during evacuations, there is wide variations across regions and among various types of disasters. Most of the literature is generated from high-income settings. 

This study was was also unique in that it was entirely administered by women representatives of the Kudumbashree Mission, a women’s empowerment group in Kerala. All responded were collected on tablets to allow for quick analysis. Preliminary findings were disseminated via WhatsApp to the hundreds of thousands of households who had members in Kudumbashree. 

Our study demonstrated the importance of government-initiated, household-level contact in influencing evacuation decisions. We were also able to quantify the impact of wage disruptions and evacuations on savings and debt. Our survey tool is publicly available and datasets uploaded on Dataverse.

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