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A shelter from the storm

Indians here have joined the fraternity in pledging support for the Katrina victims, writes Meeta Chaitanya.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2005 16:07 IST
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya

As hurricane Katrina smashed to smithereens remnants of a vivid New Orleans civilization over the last couple of days, Atlanta rose in strength to help those affected by this latest manifestation of nature's ire with all it could muster.

The ordeal undergone by countless men, women and children struck by Katrina is even more horrific given the state of mayhem that has clouded hope for those worst affected by the hurricane. The state machinery, despite its zeal has fared poorly in implementing relief and rescue strategy.

Amid offers of support that are pouring in from all over the world, India, who has herself undergone the wrath of Tsunami and the Maharashtra floods more recently, stands tall. Indians in Atlanta too have joined the fraternity in pledging support for the needy.

With Louisiana's prime seat being declared a ghost town of no soul or substance, neighbouring states including Georgia have come forward with whatever they have at their disposal to enable speedy resettlement for evacuees of whom more than 42,000 people left the city. Reportedly, at least 1,000 Katrina evacuees are in Georgia shelters. Officials have taken measures within their jurisdiction by opening up airbases as Cobb County's Dobbins Air Reserve Base near Marietta to them. Temporary food and housing is being made available to those displaced and suffering.

People suffering from growing maladies as dysentery and vomiting in Mississippi have been bused to Georgia. In Georgia's hospitals, such as Atlanta's Grady, emergency medical aid has proven to be effective and timely. Public schools in Atlanta are doing their bit in resettling kids into normalcy or a semblance thereof. Many have waived off mandatory provisos as birth certificates, academic transcripts etc. They are also giving out school packs, books and other stationery to children that have enrolled over the past few days as a result of relocation.

TV channels and leading news agencies are full of stories of people moving out of the disaster struck areas in much hurry. These people, most of who are setting up temporary new homes in the Southeast, are ill prepared for the burden of their days ahead. Most of the families that fled in haste took only that which they could lay their hands on easily -- shoes, clothes, toys for their kids, limited supplies of food and water.

They expect, even now to be 'back home' in a month. That's the least it's going to take for rudimentary revival, they have been told by officials. Given the state of affairs in New Orleans, they may well be chasing an elusive dream. It is to these people that Atlanta's community of Indians, Hispanics, and others have pledged support in the form of therapy, shelter, employment, even baby clothes, cribs and cots.

In the wake of the disastrous conditions prevailing in the rescue shelters as regards basic amenities such as food, water and clothing, Atlanta's citizens have generously opened up their hearts and homes to families displaced by the calamity. Innumerable bulletin boards on the net and calls connecting people through chains of acquaintances have paved the way for what could easily be one of the most effective disaster management and rehabilitation programs.

For evacuees form Louisiana and Mississippi, this is just the beginning of uncertainty and despair. They have no address, no money, no food, and no livelihood. For most of them the number plate on their car is their only proof of identity. For them to be greeted by strangers with as much warmth is therefore, overwhelming.

The effort of the community in Atlanta ought to be lauded for its eager help.

First Published: Sep 06, 2005 14:40 IST