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Extreme weather

Kerala floods: support pours in from Hong Kong expat community for relief effort

Expats from Kerala and the wider community in Hong Kong have collected more than US$33,000 and donated bedsheets for the Indian state severely affected by recent floods

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2018, 10:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2018, 8:57pm

Dia and Sid Rahul have been dropping spare coins into their piggy banks for two years. The siblings, aged eight and six, who live in Tung Chung near Hong Kong’s airport, have managed to save HK$900 (US$115). However, when they heard about the Kerala floods, the children decided to empty their piggy banks to contribute to the relief effort.

“Their parents had talked about the floods, and Dia volunteered first to donate her savings. Sid followed suit,” says Subin Sachidanadan, from the Malayali Association for Arts and Culture in Hong Kong.

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The expat association has about 600 members, all of whom are Malayali, an ethnic group from the southern Indian state of Kerala. The association organised a donation drive through social media and by word of mouth, and within three weeks received more than HK$261,000 from members and the wider community in Hong Kong, among them Dia and Sid.

Home to 33 million people, Kerala has experienced the worst flooding in a century. Though heavy rainfall is normal in the monsoon season, which starts in June, for the first 20 days of August it was 164 per cent higher than usual, according to the latest statistics available from Nasa.

About 445 people have died, one million residents are still displaced, and 50,000 houses have been destroyed. The state is involved in a massive clean-up effort as waters recede, but diseases such as rat fever have been on the rise due to the unsanitary conditions in the aftermath.

“My parents live in Kochi district, which has been severely affected. Luckily, they were able to leave the house before the water came. In their neighbourhood, many houses were damaged and residents lost everything,” Sachidanadan says.

The association will donate the money collected to the Chief Minister Distress Relief Fund, which has been set up by the Kerala government for the clean-up effort.

Other than monetary support, Hong Kong residents have sent other aid. Originally from Kerala and now living in Hung Hom in Kowloon, Shyama Menon started collecting bedsheets after speaking to a Rotary Club member involved with relief operations on the ground.

“When you send clothes, it takes time to sort them. Bedsheets are easier and everyone in the relief camps need them,” says Menon.

Her friends put the word out on social media, and Menon was immediately flooded with messages and calls.

Wan Chai resident Reena Khubchandani found out about the collection drive and rallied her community as well. Together, Menon and Khubchandani collected 100kg of bedsheets, even though the two had never met. Through another member of the community, they gained the support of Jet Airways. The Indian airline has shipped the aid to Kerala free of charge.

Death toll from India’s flood crisis hits 445 as clean-up intensifies

“Hong Kong people have been very generous, very supportive,” Khubchandani says, adding this is only a small part of the charity the city has shown.