Kerala floods: UAE-based teacher shifted four refugee camps in 24 hours
Accompanied by a 48-day-year-old baby and aged parents, an Ajman-based teacher and victim of the Kerala floods, was shifted from four refugee camps in a matter of 24 hours. Due to the torrential rain and lack of space and necessary supplies in many refugee shelters, the teacher's family had to move camps every few hours.
A music teacher with the Woodlem Park School in Ajman Manju Manoj spoke about her traumatic experiences over the last four days, and said she is anxious for her family's future. "Nothing prepared us for what happened. Our home is fully submerged in water. How can I go back to UAE when I know my parents and sister is not safe," exclaimed Manoj.
Speaking to Khaleej Times from the Vishwajyothi Public School Refugee Camp in Angamaly, Manju explained that her family left to Ernakulam on July 3 as her school closed for the summer holidays. "I have been living in the UAE for four years. We were at home in Manjoor, Kaladay, when the rains began getting increasingly bad. Our house is only 1.5 km away from the Periyar river, and every time there is a rise in water levels, our houses flood."
She added, "On Monday, the situation got increasingly bad. And we shifted all our material things to the first floor. However, on Tuesday morning, people in the area began making announcements and asked us to evacuate our houses immediately." The water levels in the areas neighbouring were rising in a matter of minutes, and she was forced to evacuate without her husband.
Manju packed a few essential identification documents and left the house with her son, parents, sister, and sister's infant. "My, and my sister's husband were not able to get to us on time. They are in separate camps at the moment, and can't get to us because the roads and completely blocked," she added.
Shuttled from camp to camp
On Tuesday night Manju's family was taken to the WLPS Government School camp in Kalady. "There were 300- 400 people in this camp. It is a tiny school, and it was cramped. We spent the entire night there," she said. Unfortunately, at 6 am the next morning, the camp began flooding. The family, along with everyone else in the camp, were asked to evacuate immediately. "We cannot travel with ease because we have a small baby," she said.
However, with the help for the fire force, Kerala Police force, and the army, the entire camp was evacuated and moved to the Shri Sankara College camp in Manju. "We were packed into lorries and cars like cattle and forced to shift. At the Sankara College camp, there were 2,000 people. There was no place to sit down as well. My husband was in a camp in Kacheripadi, and it was terrifying to be all alone. Since this camp was not a place for a small baby, we decided to shift again," she added.
The supplies at these camps, according to Manju, were inferior quality. "The clothes and blankets we received were torn and old. There were no diapers for the baby; there was nothing." Finally, a boat took them to the Vishwajyoythi Public School in Angamal. "It is good there right now; we have clothes. The volunteers in these camps got new commodities after we requested for it," she added.
However, going back home is not an option for Manju and her family. "We were told that water levels have slightly receded, and some of our relatives went to clean the house." However, there was a lot of damage to the property, and there were snakes in their homes. Manju said, "It's not at all safe. We hear stories about children getting bitten by snakes. And everything we own is in the house." Her family is considering renting an apartment in a safe area for a few months until the damage to the house has been repaired. The teacher has booked return tickets to Dubai on September 2 but is not sure as to how she can return.
NRI's suffer severe loss and damage to property
A Sharjah-based housewife, Sujatha Dev, told Khaleej Times the last week had been a nightmare for their family. She said, "Both my sons, aged 32 and 27, are in Kerala at the moment. They were in Paravur in Ernakulam, and yesterday and day before yesterday the water levels were neck-high in these areas. I was so worried for my sons."
However, after Dev learnt that her sons were safe, they broke the news to their mother that the ground floor of their newly-built home was submerged in water. "The worst part is that I had just moved several material things from our Dubai home to Sharjah. I was told that we had lost a lot of our things. We have lost so much in these floods."
The family did not take an insurance policy on their home and have suffered property damage amounting to thousands.
Sujith Rajendran, a former resident of Dubai and an upcoming Malayalam cinema actor, said, "I was engaged in rescue operations, and had to walk through neck-deep water to get to people. Some people have lost so many of their material possessions; it might seem like a small thing to many others, but a lot of people save money for years to buy commodities like television or fridge. It is so heartbreaking to see people suffer."