Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014

Sikh charity leads flood rescue efforts in UK

The River Thames has burst its banks after reaching its highest level in years. (AP) The River Thames has burst its banks after reaching its highest level in years. (AP)
Press Trust of India | London | Posted: February 11, 2014 4:40 pm

A British-Sikh charity set up to help victims in foreign disaster zones has become one of the first NGOs to despatch humanitarian aid to people affected by floods in southwestern England. Khalsa Aid rushed a team to flood-affected regions of Somerset and Burrowbridge to help distribute sand bags, warm clothing, antiseptic fluid, bottled water, food and other essentials.

“I think people are a bit amazed to see us with turbans and flowing beards, but at the end of the day what they see is a human being and we see our fellow countrymen suffering,” said Khalsa Aid director Ravinder Singh. The Slough-based charity, launched in southeast England in 1999, has coordinated relief efforts during disasters and emergencies in several parts of the world, including the Philippines, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Syria and the Indian states of Gujarat, Orissa and Punjab.

Referring to calls for the British government to re-direct foreign aid to countries like India in order to tackle the ongoing floods, Singh said the issue makes one “wonder on moral grounds why don’t they give half of that 250 million pounds to these people who need it”.

He added: “The people in the country who make that foreign aid possible are suffering.” More wet weather is affecting flood-stricken parts of the UK, with severe flood warnings in place along the Thames river and Somerset. Fourteen severe flood warnings remain in place in Berkshire and Surrey, and two in Somerset.

The warnings were issued after more homes were flooded and properties along the Thames evacuated today. Authorities said that thousands more were at risk. Flooding is also disrupting train services in parts of the country. The Met Office has severe weather warnings in place for rain across parts of south Wales and southwest England, cautioning that “with ongoing flooding in some places, any further rain will only add to the problems”. The Environment Agency has issued 350 less serious flood warnings and alerts, mostly in southern England and the Midlands.

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