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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

'Everything is lost': Indian expatriates in UAE speak of Kerala flood devastation 

Families and friends of flood victims in Kerala have laid bare the devastation wrought by once in a century flooding.

Surging waters have swamped homes and destroyed everything inside, they said. Others cannot contact their families because electricity and communication systems are down.

“Everything is lost," said Justin Pyanadath, 33, who works at St Paul’s church in Mussaffah, but has a family in Kerala. "All the furniture, fridge, TV and electronic items are gone.”

Mr Pyanadath last spoke to his wife, seven-month-old child, father and mother a few days ago when they were forced to the second floor of their house in Angamaly but he has since found out they are safe at a relief camp. “The government is helping but I feel very sad. They have no insurance.”

Another Abu Dhabi resident, from Kottayam, said some of her friends were waiting to rescued when she last spoke to them.

“Most were on the second floor of their buildings. They were all scared. They have no food or water. They are waiting for the [rescue] boats but the government said they can’t cover some areas because of heavy rain,” said Linta Joy, who has been living in the UAE for 18 years.

“People are losing everything: houses and contents. This is the first time they’ve seen such flooding. How to rebuild? This is the big question.”

At least 324 have died and hundreds of thousands have been forced into relief camps as unusually heavy rains exacerbate the annual monsoons.

Jitto Pattathurabil works in Abu Dhabi and arrived from Kerala just days before the flood waters rose. His three brothers in Chalakudy, Thrissur district, were forced to flee their homes. “Everything is lost inside,” said Mr Pattathurabil.

“All of them are upset. There are also shortages of food and medicine,” he said, adding that, while the situation had improved, more rain was forecast.

“We feel very bad here, it’s really painful. One of the great things is that irrespective of caste, creed or anything, everyone is working together to help. In UAE, all associations are helping, sending goods and money back to India.”

There are 14 districts in Kerala and most of them have been hit hard by floods and landslides.

Ashwin, 25, has been in the UAE for three years. His parents were also forced to leave their home in the Idukki district because of landslides that he compared to an earthquake. “It was like a bomb blast,” he said, while scrolling through pictures sent to him of the carnage.

“[My family] have lost possessions but should be able to move back into their home. People are afraid here because they cannot contact anyone. That is the main issue.”

But the distress is already turning to resolve as UAE leaders and the Indian community come together to help. The President, Sheikh Khalifa, has formed an emergency committee to organise relief assistance. It will be chaired by the Emirates Red Crescent and include representatives from the UAE's humanitarian organisations. The committee will seek the help of the Indians in the UAE and the country’s embassy here is already involved.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, added his voice to other leaders in support of the Keralites.

About three million Indians live in the UAE and it is thought a majority are Keralites. Links between the state and the UAE stretch back decades.

“Everybody is ready to go back and see their parents,” said Ms Joy. “But nobody knows how they will fly as Cochin Airport is closed and roads are blocked. Everyone here is panicked and wondering what will happen.”

To donate to relief efforts visit rcuae.ae/en/

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Read more:

UAE leaders step in to help flood-stricken Kerala

Flights from UAE to flood-hit Kerala are cancelled

Kerala floods crisis 'extremely grave' - in pictures