UAE residents lead efforts in Kerala flood response

Donations pour in to assist those affected by the disaster

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Emergency donations for victims of the devastating Kerala floods have been continuing to pour into relief centres as the UAE stepped up its efforts to assist those affected.

Hundreds of people in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and elsewhere answered urgent appeals for medical supplies and food set to be flown into the disaster-hit state.

At least Dh15 million has been pledged by three prominent Indian businessmen in the past day and many more smaller donations have been made.

The Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, the largest Indian expatriate organisation in the Emirates, said it had collected some Dh4 million worth of essentials since Wednesday, including cooking sets, blankets, foldable beds and torches.

Universal Hospital in Abu Dhabi said it planned an emergency relief flight carrying 41 tonnes of aid and equipment to the subcontinent on Tuesday, with more flights expected to follow.

“There’s a real unity to this relief effort,” said Dr Shabeer Nellikode, a founder of Universal Hospital who has helped to co-ordinate volunteers assisting with donations.

“Those from wealthy and poor backgrounds are all pitching in to help. People who have no money have come here with items, it almost made me cry.

“And the Emiratis have helped too. One person gave me Dh200,000 and said he trusted us to get it to the right people. When there’s disaster, people unite.”

Weeks of heavy monsoon rains have triggered catastrophic landslides and flooding right across northern and central Kerala, in south-west India.

Some 10,000km of road is estimated to have been damaged by the deluge, with supplies of clean water, food and electricity also disrupted.

So far, at least 357 people are known to have died in the destruction, with some 800,000 people also forced to seek shelter in emergency camps.

Worryingly, experts predict further, worsening weather to come over the next few days, raising the prospect of yet more deaths.

On Sunday, Dr Yashar Ali, chief executive of the Canadian Specialist Hospital in Dubai, said his staff had appealed for clothes, disinfectants, biscuits and other dry food items.

Meanwhile, Yusuffali MA, the millionaire Indian owner of the Lulu Hypermarket chain headquartered in Abu Dhabi, and Bavaguthu Shetty, founder of NMC Healthcare which is also based in the city, each gave Dh5million to the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, which is assisting with relief efforts.

“The natural calamity that has befallen Kerala has dislodged the lives of many Keralites,” said Dr Ali. “We urge everyone in the UAE to come and help them in their time of need.”

Sunny Varkey, the founder of school operator Gems Education, also pledged Dh5 million to help the people of his home state.

"We are making our humble contribution to the committee for supporting the rescue and rehabilitation work in Kerala, my home state," he said.

“Kerala is witnessing an unprecedented challenge and it calls for the unified efforts of all to support the state and its people. My heart goes out to the people affected by the floods and I hope they will find the strength and resolve to overcome the crisis.

Yesterday, UAE consulate staff in Kerala said it was assisting about 200 Emiratis in the state. Officials said its personnel had not slept for four days as they battled to establish that families were safe and attempted to organise their transfer out of the country.

Over the weekend, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, wrote on Twitter: “UAE and the Indian community will unite to offer relief to those affected. We urge everyone to contribute generously towards this initiative”.