Expat Indians in UAE rush to help flood victims in Himalayan state

The northern Indian state of Uttarkhand hit by unprecedented floods

UAE expatriates from different parts of India, especially from the northern state of Uttrakhand, which has been affected by unprecedented floods, are gathering food, medicines, blankets, flashlights and other materials for the rehabilitation of the victims of nature’s fury.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Devendra Singh Koranga, president of the Uttarkhand Association of UAE, said many of its 600 members have been directly or indirectly affected by the worst flood in the state’s history. A marathon charity drive is going on in the UAE to help survivors dislocated by the calamity.

According to media reports, around 10,000 dead bodies are still buried in the debris. The Indian Army is trying to rescue stranded villagers, especially from the six worst-affected areas. One report said about 3,000 people are missing. While debate about the actual death toll is continuing, Indian expatriates from Uttrakhand are a worried lot as their near and dear ones are feared dead or missing.

Says Koranga: “Geetha Chandola, one of our committee members, has already left for Uttrakhand. She has reported that it will take more than a week for the roads and bridges to be reopened so that relief materials can be taken to remote villages. We are collecting cash, blankets, food, flashlights and other relief materials to be distributed in the worst hit villages. Many of our members hail from the flood-hit areas.”

The Uttarkhand Association, part of the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF), has already collected Dh30,000.  Mrs Chandola has distributed blankets, food and other essentials in the relief camps and she will be doing a detailed survey of the damage and requirements, Koranga added. About a quarter of association’s members are middle class and the remaining work in hotels, restaurants and other sections of the hospitality industry in the UAE.

According to the president of the Uttrakhand Association, many villages in their home state are still cut off from the rest of the world as the mobile phone towers have been damaged and power supply disrupted. “Several thousand people have lost their houses, children have been orphaned and young women widowed. These people need immediate help. We appeal to the community to help such people. Jaffar Kothari, Arun Singh and others from the worst affected villages are yet to report back to us. We are trying to extend a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in Uttrakhand,” said Koranga.

Uttarkhand is well known for its pilgrimage centres which are thronged by domestic tourists. The flood has caused severe damage to buildings, infrastructure and the state’s tourism industry.

Dubai-based Indian businessman M A Yousuf Ali of the Emke Group has donated 10 million rupees to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. He has also appealed to other Indian businessmen and community leaders to donate generously for the cause.  The Indian Business and Professional Council, Sharjah too has promised to donate for the flood victims. All Kerala Colleges Alumni Federation (Akcaf), an association of alumni of 63 colleges from Kerala, is running a campaign in association with RadioMe, a Malayalam radio station, and Reporter TV to channelise relief materials to survivors of the tragedy.

“Our campaign started five days ago and we are getting offers of medicine from leading hospital groups. The All Kerala Medical Graduates Association and blanket manufacturers have offered to help. About 1,000 labourers from India, Pakistan and other countries living in an Abu Dhabi labour camp collected money and purchased 400kg of blankets. People who earn very low salaries like house boys and labourers are coming forward with contributions. The Tailors Association too is offering help. The response has been much better than expected. We are not collecting cash, even though some donors want to give money,” said Leo Radhakrishnan, head of news at RadioMe.

“We are broadcasting contact numbers of Akcaf officials who have volunteered to collect the relief materials from anywhere in the UAE. Time World Cargo, a logistics company, will help us reach the materials collected to the New Delhi bureau of Reporter TV,” he added.

“After every news bulletin, RadioMe airs an appeal for help from listeners. People from the lower strata of society particularly are coming forward with offers of small donations, blankets, clothes, dry fruits, torches and other materials,” said Rajesh S Pillai and Anoop Anil Devan, president and secretary respectively of Akcaf, which has more than 30,000 members.

Akcaf volunteers are collecting  relief materials from donors who contact them. The New Delhi bureau of the Reporter TV will receive the relief materials and send them to the relief camps.

“The first caller was a guard living in an Al Qouz labour camp, who came forward to donate a spare blanket and a sweater for the flood victims. Employees of Grand Service Station in Al Barsha purchased 150 new blankets, after hearing the RadioMe-Akcaf appeal and donated them. Every day, we are getting more than 200 calls from listeners who are ready to help the flood victims in their own small way. Blankets, sweaters, dry food, medicines and money will be collected for a week. Time World has agreed to deliver the relief material to the flood victims. Many community and residential associations have kept collection boxes for donation,” said Radhakrishnan.

“Alumni of 63 colleges associated with Akcaf are also collecting relief materials. Many people in labour camps are also collecting food and clothes for the needy in Uttrakhand,” added Akbar Paramel, Akcaf coordinator of the charity drive.

Girish Menon, station head, RadioMe, said the resources will reach the right people and the Uttarkhand campaign will run for some time.

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