As devastating floods roll through South Asia, Canadians reach out to help

Ontarians are reaching out to help provide relief while monsoon season continues to hit parts of South Asia with a devastating intensity, killing more than 1,000 people and directly affecting 40 million more.

Displaced families need clean drinking water more than anything, aid group says

Villagers collect drinking water in the Indian state of West Bengal on August 23, 2017. Canadian charity GlobalMedic is sending 96,000 water purifying tablets to the area. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)

Ontarians are reaching out to help provide relief while monsoon season continues to hit parts of South Asia with devastating intensity, killing more than 1,000 people and directly affecting 40 million more.  

The areas most affected by the flooding are northern India, southern Nepal and northern Bangladesh.

The flooding continued to devastate on Thursday, when a building collapsed in Mumbai, partly because the foundations were weakened by some of the heaviest rainfall seen in that city in 15 years. The accident killed at least 16 people and injured 30 more.

'Everybody is together on this'

According to Statistics Canada, at a population of over 1.6 million, the South Asian community is the largest group of visible minorities in Canada and Ontario. They count for over seven per cent of the province's total population.

Umesh Kumar, the president of the India Canada Association in Ottawa, has been leading a relief effort to send money and resources to families in India.

Umesh Kumar is the president of the India Canada Association in Ottawa. (CBC)

"Everybody is together on this — they aren't thinking twice," said Kumar.

"They lost their bikes, homes, clothes, medicine — everything. Everybody needs some kind of help, and they are counting on us."

The association has a goal of raising $5,000, as well as collecting computers and clothing donations. The group is also looking for a pharmaceutical company in India to help distribute medicine.

Monsoon season is a yearly occurrence, which typically starts in June and ends in September, but Kumar says this period was more intense than usual.

"Some of them were thinking they could handle it, but they were not prepared for this kind of incident. This was unexpected," Kumar said.

Clean drinking water is the priority

Matt Capobianco, the deputy director of the Toronto-based charity GlobalMedic, is helping to prepare two people who will travel to Nepal, which has over 1.7 million people in need of aid. The response team is made up of volunteers who typically have day jobs as emergency responders.

Matt Capobianco, the deputy director for GlobalMedic, stands with a household water purification system used to provide drinking water to flood zones. (Grant Linton/CBC)

For this type of disaster, Capobianco says getting clean drinking water to families in need is the priority. The team will bring 96,000 Aquatab water purification tablets, which clean 10 litres of water each.

One Aquatab can clean 10 litres of water. GlobalMedic is bringing 96,000 tabs to Nepal. (Linton/CBC)

"The areas we're responding to in Nepal are very rural areas, so you have livestock defecating all over, and the flood waters coming in and taking all that defecation and spreading them out throughout the community," Capobianco told CBC Toronto.

"So not only does that affect those people who are wading through those waters, it also affects the water sources that they would traditionally drink," he said.

GlobalMedic will also hand out hygiene kits filled with toothpaste, soap, sanitary napkins and anything else to help displaced families stay clean and healthy.

'They only want to survive'

On the streets of Little India in Toronto's east end, many people said they were helping their friends and family back home, however they can.

Nabeel Rahman is concerned about his relatives in Bangladesh. He says they're safe from the immediate flooding, but he's concerned about the safety of their water supply.

Nabeel Rahman is concerned for his family's health back in Bangladesh. (Nadeau/CBC)

"You expect flooding. It's an advantage that brings in minerals and pollens that helps agriculture. But on the other hand there's a lot of water-borne diseases," Rahman told CBC Toronto. "Our water table is really high and we get water from the hand pumps."
Afroz Zahid is helping to gather supplies to send to people hit by the floods in parts of South Asia. (Nadeau/CBC)

Afroz Zahid, also from Bangladesh, says members of the mosque she attends in Canada are working together to collect money and food. They fill containers with supplies and send them to the areas that need it the most.

"We're good here in Canada. People there don't have shelter or food — they only want to survive," Zahid said.