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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Aid cargo from UAE arrives in Kerala 

Forty-one tonnes of aid and equipment is awaiting customs clearance before distribution to flood victims

Residents collect food and water from a truck distributing relief to those stranded by floods in Pandanad in the Alappuzha District, Kerala. Manjunath Kiran / AFP
Residents collect food and water from a truck distributing relief to those stranded by floods in Pandanad in the Alappuzha District, Kerala. Manjunath Kiran / AFP

A plane loaded with 41 tonnes of aid for flood victims in Kerala landed at Calicut airport on Wednesday.

The Vision Air cargo flight was chartered by Universal Hospital in the UAE and left Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

The aid and equipment was being unloaded and awaiting customs clearance on Wednesday.

Universal staff in Kerala and volunteers on the ground will then help distribute the goods to those who need it the most over the next few days.

Universal was among the many institutions who swiftly responded to the crisis and its hospitals in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain became unofficial aid centres last weekend with people dropping off goods there every hour.

Other privately-chartered planes by organisations in the UAE such as VPS Healthcare are expected to land in the next week.

Close to 400 people have died, thousands are stranded and a million are displaced following unusually heavy monsoon rains that swamped the Indian state. Tens of thousands of homes have also been destroyed. With the rains now easing, teams are desperately trying to rescue those caught in remote areas.

In other parts of the state, a massive clean-up operation has begun but power is still out in many areas and infectious diseases are a concern following the worst floods seen in a century.

Meanwhile, the UAE will stand shoulder to shoulder with the stricken Indian state.

That was the message from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, after speaking to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

“My sincere condolences to the families of the victims,” Sheikh Mohammed wrote on Twitter.

“Our relief and charitable institutions are helping with relief efforts.”

The UAE was among the first countries to offer help when the gravity of the situation became clear last weekend. The Emirates Red Crescent led the official relief effort while businesses, community groups and ordinary people stepped up to contribute. Volunteers with the Zayed Humanitarian Campaign also treated hundreds of children and the elderly in mobile clinics. Teams will remain in place so they can help to treat people suffering from chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.

The relief effort has now moved to a different phase. Following the response from people across the UAE, the Indian ambassador, Navdeep Suri, said enough humanitarian relief had been donated. Financial support was preferable, he said and Mr Suri urged people to donate only through official channels. Emirates Red Crescent allows people to donate money through its website.

Meanwhile, hundreds of fisherman are being hailed as the heroes of the crisis. A report from Agence France-Presse detailed how they carried their boats on trucks to reach the worst hit areas and risked their lives to rescue stranded victims.

One man got on all fours with his face in the water so women could step on his back to board a rescue boat. Others had to suffer abuse from people angry because the official rescuers took so long.

"They arrived like saviours. No local government officials came to us or gave us any warnings before that," said Ravindran Achary, the 62-year-old head of a nine-member family, now living with other flood refugees at the Union Christian College in Kochi.

The fishermen have been promised a financial reward and ceremony to honour their efforts.

Authorities in Kerala have also issued warnings about fake news. One false news report suggested football star Cristiano Ronaldo had donated $11 million to the Kerala flood disaster fund. Indian fact-checking websites like Boomlive.in showed how many people are using Ronaldo's supposed donation to criticise the federal government's response to the crisis.

The central government has pledged almost $100 million in aid so far.

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Read more:

'When there's disaster, people unite': UAE's rich and poor unite to help Kerala flood victims

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

Indian businessmen pledge millions of dirhams to UAE's relief campaign for flood-stricken Kerala

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