Dubai: Community members here in the UAE are reaching out to help the food-hit families in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Torrential rains last week caused massive floods and landslides in large parts of the western Indian state, claiming the lives of around 210 and isolating several areas for days.
Residents of the worst-hit Konkan belt (Chiplun, Mahad, Khed) include family members and relatives of Indian expatriates living in the UAE.
Saeed Maldar, a sales manager with a shipping company in Dubai, said his father, 80, brother’s wife, 40, niece, 20, and eight-year-old nephew who live in Chiplun, were caught unawares when the area was submerged in flash floods in the wee hours of July 22. “They were sleeping. Suddenly, around 4.30am, water started entering our home. They couldn’t come out because the area was already flooded. As the water level rose inside the house, they climbed to the open terrace and waited there, clinging on to a couple of umbrellas.” Drenched in rain, he said his family spent 36 hours on the open terrace as nobody could reach their building due to heavy currents.
“They survived on some biscuits and water bottles thrown to them by their neighbours from a nearby four-storey building. I called them frequently to keep them motivated. I was very concerned when I heard my father’s voice shivering with cold and fever. We lost connection after their phone batteries ran out. I managed to talk to them again only on Monday when my brother, who works in Mumbai, made it to them with food and clothes. They are now in the house of a relative. Electricity was restored in our home only last night,” Maldar added.
The furniture, home appliances, clothes and food material were all damaged. The house was full of sludge after the water receded, he added.
Nilesh Khatu, who runs an electrical installation and supply company in Dubai, said his sister’s house and their shop were completely flooded. “They had to exit the building from the roof and managed to reach an adjacent building. My brother-in-law was stuck on the rooftop of his shop for 12 hours. Everything got washed away from all the shops in the area and also from a hotel owned by my family.”
Dilawar Dalwai, who runs an advertising and printing company in Dubai, said his mother-in-law who lives alone back home was also affected. “She is 82. She was evacuated after the ground floor of her house. She is now with some relatives. We were extremely concerned as we were not able to contact her.”
He said expats in the UAE were calling up NGOs and volunteers engaged in relief work to check on their loved ones back home.
For Konkan from UAE
Expatriates from Maharashtra in UAE have been reaching out to help the flood-hit villagers back home — mainly in the Konkan region. Some expatriates have been doing their bit individually.
Pankaj Ramesh Aute, a printing engineer in Dubai, was one of the first to extend a helping hand. “I am part of the volunteering group, Youth for Democracy, formed by the sons of farmers in our place. My group members have been out in the field for rescue and relief operations. I have been supporting them and coordinating with them from here.” He said not many people from other regions were ready for the relief work due to COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have focused on distributing water, blankets, dry food, food kits, milk powder for children, sanitary pads, inner wears etc. We have also set up a location where the donors can deliver material shopped from any e-commerce websites. Medical camps will also start once the flood water recedes. We are going to start work on climate change, global warming and disaster management training also.”
Sandeep K. Kad, a chef and senior member of Dubai Marathi Mahamandal, a social media group of Maharashtrians here, said members of the group were also contributing to the relief work by sending financial support individually. “We have also collaborated with Youth for Democracy to ensure our support reaches the deserving people.”
UAE-based members of Gulf Maharashtra Business Forum (GMBF) are joining their counterparts in other Gulf countries in ensuring long-term support for small and medium businessmen who have lost their livelihood.
Dr Sunil Manjrekar, president of GMBF Global, said the forum has decided to sponsor the equipment and tools needed for restarting the businesses of those who have lost their livelihood and also to help the unemployed youth in different Gulf countries with jobs.
Vivek Kolhatkar, general secretary of GMBF Global, said the forum was identifying suppliers through volunteers. “We will ensure whatever is required reaches those shop owners and small-time businessmen so that they can restart their businesses within one month.”
Dalwai, who is also an executive member of GMBF, said the flood-hit shop owners in his locality have no inventory or furniture left. “Everything has been washed away. As government help in restarting businesses might take time, we are doing our bit in supporting them.”
Dr Manjrekar said the Forum was also in touch with a couple of technology companies from other cities in the state to help resume online education as fast as possible.
Students on a mission
Meanwhile, expat students are also pitching in to help the flood-hit residents from their home state. Riva Tulpule, a student who runs the ‘WeCareDXB’ electronic recycling campaign, and her friend Shruti Chorge, have launched a social media campaign to collect old or new clothes and blankets.
The drive will end on August 2 and the collected items will be shipped to the flood-hit villagers in Chiplun.