Islanders raise funds for disaster relief in India
Indian government estimates damage exceeds $3 billion US
With a reported 800,000 people displaced due to flooding in India's southern state of Kerala, some Islanders originally from that part of the country are doing what they can to help.
Sandra Sunil and her family moved to Charlottetown in 2010 and she says it's been agonizing to hear about the devastation from family and friends in Kerala.
'You feel helpless'
'It's terrible because you're just on the other side of the world and you feel helpless," said Sunil. "And you can't really do anything direct or immediate."
Sunil says floodwater rose so high in her cousin's home that the family had to be rescued from the roof by a helicopter. They're now at a relief camp but Sunil says they've lost everything and have nothing to rebuild with. And that's the case for so many of the people impacted by the floods.
"We couldn't just sit around and do nothing," said Sunil. "We wanted to do a small part and raise these funds to help rebuild the lives of those affected."
Last week, the family decided to collect donations through their small business, 4S Catering, a stall that sells traditional Indian food at the Charlottetown Farmers Market.
Sunil said so far, customers have been interested in learning more about the situation in Kerala — and eager to help.
It's going to take years and years to rebuild.- Issac Cherian, president, Kerala Association of P.E.I.
"It's heartwarming to know that people do care about people on the other side of the world. Everyone's just helping out and showing their support."
Others originally from that part of India have also started collecting donations to contribute to the government of Kerala chief minister's distress relief fund.
Food, water, medicine urgently needed
Issac Cherian, president of the Kerala Association of P.E.I, says fresh drinking water and access to medication are some of the most urgent needs for those left stranded or displaced by the flooding.
"There are issues with food too," said Cherian. "They lost everything, some of them don't have any money, so they are trying for food and shelter and sanitary napkins, that's a main issue for women."
Citing information from the government of Kerala chief minister's distress relief fund, Cherian said there are currently more than 3,000 relief camps set up in the state, with close to one million people requiring emergency shelter.
He said it's not just homes that will need to be rebuilt.
According to Cherian, with 220 of the state's main bridges collapsed, 10,000 kilometres of road damaged, and 42,000 hectares of crops ruined, Kerala will need all the help it can get once the water recedes and the clean-up begins.
"It's going to take years and years to rebuild it back to the state that it was," said Cherian.
"So hopefully we'll be able to collect some more money and send it home — we're not there physically, the only thing we can do is send money and help whoever is helping the people up there."
Cherian said since the funds are so urgently needed, the Kerala Association of P.E.I. hopes to get them to India as soon as possible.
So far the efforts have raised over $5,000 and they're accepting donations until the end of August.