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Dubai: Keralites are using social media to thank the leaders and people of the UAE, for sending financial aid and humanitarian assistance for rescue and rehabilitation in the flood-ravaged Indian state.

On Tuesday, hashtag #ThankyouUAE started trending with messages of gratitude. Twitter user @jaadatendi: “I worked for nearly three years in Abu Dhabi. Truly humbled by your gesture in our crisis at home ! #thankyouUAE

And, @_HashTagged posted: “Sir, I’m just a common citizen of India and a proud Keralalite... just want to say thank you to your nation @HHShkMohd for the unconditional love you have shown towards us. #ThankyouUAE”

UAE expats from Kerala also joined in to thank the UAE. 
@ajismagix tweeted: “Happiness and pride as a resident of this beautiful country [UAE] has multiplied a billion times more. Thanks to the UAE and its wonderful rulers for extending care and support to #Kerala during this difficult time.”

Celebrities use social media to help Kerala

Many Indian celebrities have used social media to raise awareness and funds to help victims of the #KeralaFloods.  Malayalam actress and fashion designer Poornima Indrajith and award-winning music composer Shaan Rahman, have been at the forefront of Kerala flood rescue efforts.

Another person who joined this club was Bollywood actor Sushant Sigh Rajput who recently donated Rs10,000,000 (Dh 45,179,745) towards the Kerala Chief Minister’s relief fund, all thanks to a fan.

In what appears to be an Instagram exchange, @sybhamranjn66 posted: “I don’t have money but I want to donate some food, how can I donate please tell me.”

Rajput replied to his post: “I will donate Rs10,000,000 on your behalf, make sure that it reaches directly to your friends out there who need it…” He then thanked @sybhamranjn66 for inspiring him to donate. 

Rajput later posted screenshots of his bank transaction along with the Instagram conversation. Fans were very impressed and his post garnered 122,296 likes with many calling him “compassionate” and “helpful”.

@swassy97 said: You are surely a gem… I too donated. I don’t like public displays because that won’t matter but you definitely should because you have a fan base and people might do even more now. Thanks a lot Sushant. You are making us proud…”

And @priyanka_1330 said: “Must say you are truly an inspiration to all of us. I have also contributed some amount of money.”

Social media was used to seek and provide help during floods

Social media was a boon during Kerala floods. When phone networks within the Indian state were disrupted due to the weather, many flood victims started uploading videos on Facebook and Twitter to ask for help.

Keralites around the world, who had friends and relatives stranded in Kerala also uploaded videos requesting rescue teams to act fast.

In the past week, hashtags like #KeralaFloods and #KeralaFloodRelief became popular on the internet.

Soon, social media channels and messaging platforms like WhatsApp were filled with information, emergency numbers and details about those who were stranded. This helped rescue teams reach people who needed help.

Social media also helped Kerala get financial and humanitarian assistance from people across India and the globe.

In the UAE, President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has instructed the formation of a national emergency committee to provide assistance to the people affected in Kerala floods. His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has also expressed condolences to the Indian President on the tragic death of civilians in the floods that hit the country.

Hashtag #UAEStandsWithKerala also began trending as people in the UAE started collecting and donating relief goods to be sent to the flood-stricken state.

Popular Emirati vlogger, Khalid Al Ameri, uploaded a video on his social media channels, requesting support for victims of the flood.

On Facebook, he wrote: “Heavy monsoons in Kerala, India, have led to some of the worst floods it has ever seen ... tens of thousands are either displaced or homeless, they need our help now.

To people in the UAE: You can donate directly through exchanges ... Stay strong Kerala, we are here for you and we are helping, hold on.”

The video was shared close to 80,000 times.Other Indian states also joined in providing aid to Kerala

On August 19, Chief minister of the Indian state of Punjab, Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) tweeted: “I appeal to all Punjabis to support the government’s efforts to help the people of Kerala in this hour of distress. They need our support in whatever way possible so please do what you can for the #KeralaReliefFund.

Sikh volunteers

A group of Sikh volunteers from Khalsa Aid International reached Kerala and organised a langar (free food) for those stranded in this natural disaster and served nearly 8,000 people.

They are being hailed as heroes on social media and are being praised for their humanitarian efforts. According to newspaper The Indian Express, the UK-based philanthropist group is working closely with the help of Gurudwara Singh Sabha, Thevara, Kerala.

Amarpreet Singh, Asia Pacific managing director of Khalsa Aid said: “Our team is currently at Assisi Vidyaniketan Public School, Perumpilly in Kochi and serving langar to 3,000 people. We have adopted this camp. More volunteers will reach there soon… We served rice and veggies to people… the local gurudwara is helping in preparing food.”

Online tweeps called their gesture “inspiring” and many users shared pictures about their endeavours.

Politician and Member of Parliament (MLA), Manjinder S. Sirsa used his official twitter handle to share images of the aid workers in Kerala. He posted: “Humbled to share how @Khalsa_Aid has come forward to help flood victims in Kerala… langar being prepared at Gurdwara Sri Singh Sabha, Kochi, Kerala for flood victims. Let us all share their goodness and donate funds for Kerala Flood Relief #IndiaForKerala #KeralaFloods.”

His comment was liked and retweeted more than 1,500 times.

The current Union Minister of State with Independent Charge in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri also praised the efforts of the volunteers. He said: “The Sikh spirit of Sarbat Da Bhala [good for everybody] always reaches out to humanity in an hour of need. As our brothers and sisters in Kerala battle a calamity, we share their pain and pray for them…”

And tweep @ssaniya25 said: “Each time, without fail. Humanity above all should be everybody’s motto. #JustSikhThings”

@mallucomrade said: “The Sikh community has always been in the forefront when it comes to helping people. @Khalsa_Aid known for their humanitarian work for refugees across the world have set up a ‘langar’ in Kochi and are providing food to #KeralaFloods victims. Thank you. Heartfelt gratitude.”

The Khalsa Aid has also been active on different social media platforms and have updated people with their initiative and how volunteers can take part.

Rescue missions

Many are also using the popular hashtags to hail the work done by rescue forces, civilians who volunteered in the rescue mission and fishermen who helped with their skills and boats.

These fishermen were hailed as the “unsung heroes” of the rescue mission for their tireless help in rescuing stranded victims.

Official Twitter account of Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (@CMOKerala) tweeted: “CM Pinarayi Vijayan announced that the Government will honour fishing workers who were part of the rescue mission. All boats will be granted ₹3000 (Dh158.09) for each day of their work. Government will also bear the repairing costs of boats damaged during the mission. #KeralaFloods”

Message of gratitude

Relentless efforts by the Indian air force and navy during the #KeralaFloods are not going unnoticed.

When the @indiannavy posted an image of ‘Thanks’ spelled out on a rooftop, the image was shared over a 1,000 times on Twitter, on Monday.

@indiannavy wrote: “#OpMadad #KeralaFloodRelief #KeralaFloods2018 A Thank You note painted on the roof of a house were the Naval ALH piloted by Cdr Vijay Varma rescued two women. Bravo...”

Social media users said it was a timely message, as the National Disaster Management Authority stated that over 20,000 people had been rescued on Sunday alone.

@RlySocietyStaff wrote: “Gratitude is the least of virtues, but in adversities, it is simply beautiful. Proud of both rescuer and rescued. Keep up the good work. Thank you.”

@vrishnivansh wrote: “Six letters of THANKS speak the blessing of thousands of marooned civilians rescued by the Indian Armed Forces. Thank you Indian Armed Forces for saving my brothers and sisters in Kerala and elsewhere, though I wonder if we could EVER repay your generosity.”

As flood waters receded and rainfall eased, on Sunday night a video from Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram, went viral. The video that shows Thiruvananthapuram District Collector K. Vasuki speaking to volunteers at the Cottonhill collection center in the city, was shared nearly 25,000 times.

Facebook user Mohsin Ahmed Basheer shared the video and wrote: “Watch out for the ‘o podu’(hurrah)! #KeralaFloods”

However, the hashtags were also used to discuss and highlight the problem of environmental pollution in the state.

Environmental pollution

A bridge in flood-hit Kerala, which had become a symbol of plastic pollution, has now become a stark reminder that not everybody is still considerate of Nature.

Pictures of the Malayattur Kodanad bridge in Kerala went viral over the weekend after some of the flood water receded, leaving behind a swamp of plastic debris.

Tweep @SanghiSwati had written: “The Malayattoor Kodanad bridge (Kerala) after flood waters receded. All the ‘gifts’ from mankind to the river have been returned with thanks.”

However, a new video has emerged on social media, showing a loader clearing the waste and dumping it all back into the Periyar river, leaving social media users outraged.

Twitter user @asomputra shared the video and wrote: “After all that has happened in #Kerala, this is how we treat our rivers - dumping all the debris, including plastic bottles, that the Periyar left on the Malayattoor bridge back in the river. #KeralaFloods #LessonsNotLearnt”

Another tweep @NeoRightAngle wrote: “It seems no matter how hard Nature teaches us lessons, we are not ready to learn.”

@seriousfunnyguy added: “Kerala Flood Trash that came up on bridge was an opportunity to recycle plastic, use wood as fuel in coming days for the displaced or simply bury it. We wasted that opportunity and dumped it back into the river …”

Kerala produces 480 tonnes of plastic waste per day as per the Kerala Suchitwa Mission, a government department responsible for providing sanitation and waste management solutions.

25 Indian states and Union Territories, including Kerala, have implemented some level of ban on manufacturing and use of everyday plastic items. However, images from the current floods in the state show that it will take time to reverse the current damage and change existing behaviour towards the environment.

By Sanya Nayeem, Deputy Social Media Editor; Evangeline Elsa, Community Solutions Editor; Huda Tabrez, Community Web Editor and Shreya Bhatia, Reader Interactivity Journalist.