DUBAI // As the death toll from the floods which have devastated the North-West regions of Pakistan approached 1,500 people, Pakistanis in the UAE rallied together to supply urgent relief to help relatives and friends. Dozens of community leaders, welfare groups and concerned members of the public met at the Pakistan Association in Dubai yesterday to discuss an action plan. A collection centre for aid donations has been set up at the association's headquarters in Oud Metha and the first batch of relief material was gathered yesterday.
Cash contributions of nearly Dh200,000, about 100 tents and some clothes have already been collected, but community leaders have called on the large Pakistani population in the UAE, more than 700,000 strong, to offer more help. As well as the rising number of dead, thousands of others are still waiting to be rescued from the country's worst floods in at least 80 years, with landslides and torrential rains sweeping away thousands of homes.
"This is the need of the hour," said Essamuddin Orakzai, 40, the vice-president of the Pak Khyber Wing of the Pakistan Association in Dubai. "We have to come together to collect whatever we can for the Pakistani community in the UAE." For Mr Orakzai the plight of his countrymen is particularly close to home. He made frantic calls to his family in Kohat Jarma after seeing reports of a bridge collapse in his town.
"The bridge was just about 10 minutes from my house," said Mr Orakzai. His wife, five sons and two daughters were safe but many of his neighbours perished. The water destroyed his farms and also homes of many of his relatives. "I called my son as soon as I heard about it," said Mr Orakzai. "I was worried about them, but they were all safe. My house is located at a height, which is why the water could not destroy it. My friend's entire family, including his young son, were killed in the collapse." The bridge collapsed killed 15 people. Mr Orakzai is now spearheading efforts to get relief from the UAE to the affected areas of Pakistan. "There are so many people I know who are missing now," he said. "We are praying that everybody is safe." Community leaders from Dubai, Ajman, Ras al Khaimah and other emirates made immediate contributions. "Today our community is being tested. We have to live up to the test and help our people," said Ayub Afridi, the president of the Pak Khyber Wing of the Pakistan Association in Dubai. Mr Afridi is the representative for expatriates from the North Western region of Pakistan. He immediately donated Dh100,000 for the relief efforts and called on others in the community to follow suit. A collection centre for donations will also be set up soon in Ras al Khaimah, the association members said. Fears are growing about the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera and medical teams had been dispatched to the deluged areas. The disaster has forced two million people to flee their homes. UAE residents have expressed their anger against the government for failing to provide enough emergency assistance nearly a week after the floods. "People can reach where the government and army cannot," said Inayat ur Rehman, the acting general secretary of the association. "We want to send the relief to our team in Pakistan so they can give it to the victims." Mr Rehman said the association has been inundated with calls from the community asking how they can help. A list of essential items have been provided by the Pakistan government to the association. While cash contributions are preferred, other aid material could also be provided. The association would continue accepting donations at their office from 9am to 9pm every day. "The first batch of relief will be sent tomorrow but we will continue sending more material and funds whenever we receive it," said Mr Afridi. The association is also looking for volunteers who can help them in coordinating relief materials and ensure it reaches the flood hit areas. firstname.lastname@example.org