Indian Red Cross helps reunite families separated by worst flooding in decades

Published: 17 December 2015 10:16 CET

By Ashirbad Snehdip Raha, ICRC, and Rosemarie North, IFRC

As flood waters recede in south India, the Indian Red Cross Society continues to reunite families separated by the disaster and offer assistance to thousands of people in need.

With phone lines down for days after the worst flooding to affect India’s southern states in decades, Malaysian woman Parameswari Kandaiah lost contact with her daughter, who was studying in the city of Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

The worried mother contacted a relative in Sri Lanka, who in turn got in touch with the Indian Red Cross.

Tamil Nadu branch tracing Officer Nagarajan Krishnamurthy picks up the story.

“Though most of the channels of communication were down, we continued our systematic tracing efforts and finally managed to locate her daughter, Sivagama Sundari Ramalingam, who was safe in the home of one of her friends near Chennai airport. We immediately asked her to contact her mother in Malaysia. We also informed her mother by phone to put her mind at rest.”

This is just one of 40 cases where Nagarajan Krishnamurthy has been able to restore links between family members who lost contact during the floods which began in early November.  The floods disrupted lines of communication and transport across the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Indian Red Cross staff and volunteers have been in action since heavy rain associated with Tropical Cyclone Rovan affected an estimated 3 million people and caused more than 300 deaths. Their help, which was carried out in coordination with state governments, included search and rescue, clearing trees from roads, providing medical aid and relief goods, cooking food for people who evacuated to schools or other buildings and setting up an emergency helpline.

On 30 November, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) released 295,550 Swiss francs (300,000 US dollars) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to help 3,500 of the worst-affected families (or 17,500 people) with relief materials and disease prevention measures. Because the needs are so great, the Red Cross plans to expand its help in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to reach an extra 4,000 families, or a total of 37,500 people.

Help for people affected by the floods is coming from the Canadian Red Cross, the Red Cross Society of China, the Singapore Red Cross, the governments of Canada and China, the European Union’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) and other donors.

Indian Red Cross Joint Secretary Dr Veer Bhushan said, “It will be a mammoth task for affected people in the two south Indian states to recover from the disaster because of its severity, long duration and the sheer number of people affected.”

“Our priority is to help three groups of people who assessments have shown will struggle to get back on their feet. They are people who are living in slums, those displaced by floods and those living in temporary shelters.”

The expanded plan will give more people tarpaulins so they can build shelters, restore access to safe drinking water and latrines, and carry out hygiene promotion. The plan is also to strengthen the capacity of Red Cross branches to help after future disasters, and enhance the resilience of local communities.  


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