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People of all ages, from all walks of life join hands in Kerala relief effort

People of the state are showing the world how to forget political, regional and religious differences to join hands in the hour of need.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2018 21:53 IST
Yamini Nair
Yamini Nair
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala,Kerala flood,Relief operations in Kerala
Flood victims carry relief material as they walk through a damaged area after floods, at Nelliyampathy village in Kerala on August 21.(REUTERS)

Youngsters, mostly millennials, are standing in a row to unload a consignment of relief material that has just arrived in a mini van. In minutes, the packets are shifted inside a huge hall where the materials are sorted out and packed in different boxes, all in another couple of minutes. The boxes - labelled and stacked under various categories such as cooking oil, sanitary napkins, baby food and other essentials - are mounting in the hall and then taken out and loaded on a vehicle bound for an affected area. The entire gathering breaks into an applause when a truck loaded with relief material leaves.

This scene from Government Women’s College auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram is being replicated in all parts of the state.

As Kerala emerges from the devastating floods that ravaged most of the state, it has got a reason to smile. People of the state are showing the world how to forget political, regional and religious differences to join hands in the hour of need.

“Our only concern was to save the lives of those who were in trouble,” says Pradeep Freddy, 19, who was part of a 16-member team from Thiruvananthapuram that was on a rescue mission in badly-affected Aluva and Chengannur.

Fishermen and locals push a boat onto a truck after relief operations ended in Alappuzha district in Kerala on August 21. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

Nothing is better than helping someone when in need,” says the first year BA student of St Xavier’s College. He is from the fishermen community and goes on the sea and labours at a workshop to meet his needs, including college fees.

Walk into any relief collection centre, you will be met with people from all walks of life coming in with sacks of rice, cartons of medicines and other essentials.

An elderly woman who used her pension money to buy biscuits and bread, a beggar who came to donate coins totalling Rs 300, an autorickshaw driver who used his day’s earnings to get a bagful of groceries - heartwarming stories are pouring in from all parts of the state after the tragedy on a scale that at least two generations haven’t seen.

Read: NASA releases video tracking monsoon rains behind Kerala floods

“It was heartening to see people setting aside all differences and caring for one another during these difficult times,” says Aadharsh AV, a volunteer working in Mananthavady, Wayanad.

“One of the collection centres here received a huge bundle of clothes, mostly branded shirts and trousers of high value, from Bengaluru. The authorites were forced to shift the entire load to another relief camp as people in our area, mostly comprising plantation workers and tribals, needed foodgrains and other essentials more,” says Aadharsh, who is a freelance journalist.

The relief collection points are teeming with volunteers and flooded with material to an extent that the authorities had to send advisories via social media that certain things are not needed anymore. The teams are coordinating with the collectorate in the respective district to ensure that the supply meets demand.

Staff at a relief camp at Chengannur, in Alappuzha district on August 21. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

“We have been getting an overwhelming response and have already despatched tonnes of relief material to the affected areas,” says Bindu Joy, a decoupage artist, who works for Anbodu Trivandrum, an organisation working for flood relief. Even the carton boxes, tapes, and food for volunteers are sponsored by good samaritans, she adds.

“About 230 camps in Wayanad are working fine, thanks to donations from all quarters as well as neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Now our focus is on rehabilitating those who lost their homes in landslides,” says Keshvendra Kumar, district collector in charge, Wayanad.

“Enthusiastic kids are coming in hoardes to help. We make them work in shifts so that no one is disappointed,” says Vanchiyoor P Babu, development standing committee chairman, Thiruvananthapuram Corporation.

Thiruvananthapuram Corporation has sent a team of 350 members, including cleaning volunteers, carpenters, plumbers and cook to help rehabilitation work in Chengannur, one of the worst-hit areas on Tuesday. The group will also have a medical team.

“Relief camps in Aluva have enough supply of food and medicines, thanks to Ernakulam area that was not flooded. All our relief material came from there,” says Mahesh Pillai, a software engineer with Tata Consultancy Services, who was part of rescue and relief efforts in Aluva.

There’s no time to waste for these youngsters who put in their days and nights to lend a helping hand to those in need.

“If we don’t help when something happens in our state, then who would?” says volunteer Shravan S Nair who has completed his Bachelor of Computer Applications.

Thiruvananthapuram collector K Vasuki has instructed educational institutions to mark as present those students who volunteered to help with rescue and relief efforts in the district. “Their selfless efforts were priceless,” she said in a press release that also instructed officials to initiate action against institutions that flout the order.

Read: Centre and state will rebuild Kerala together, says Union minister KJ Alphons

First Published: Aug 22, 2018 19:12 IST