The Indian-American community in Texas is helping hundreds of people affected by Hurricane Harvey, one of the most destructive storms in American history, by distributing fresh food, medical and essential needs. Massive evacuation and rescue operations continue to take place in Texas and fund raising has begun for disaster relief operations to help victims of Harvey.
The entire neighbourhoods of the fourth-largest city in the US and the most populous in Texas have been flooded leaving residents homeless and hapless. While government agencies were working round-the-clock in relief efforts, the Indian community also rallied together to pitch in with whatever help they could in terms of food, shelter and rescue operations.
Sewa International has raised USD 100,000 but their goal is to raise USD 250,000 in Houston and USD 1 million in the US, said its Houston Chapter president Gitesh Desai. “Much more is needed to support this massive relief operation for weeks to come. It will be six months before most families can get back to their normal lives”, Desai added.
Volunteers from all over Texas are helping in any way they can, Desai said. The greater Houston is home to around 150,000 strong and influential Indian-American community. Around 30,000 people were evacuated and the population of Indians among them would be in the high hundreds, said Anupam Ray, India’s Consul General in Houston.
“I am proud of the Indian community in Houston. One of the incredible things I saw during #HurricaneHarvey is how Indians stepped up to join relief efforts. This was in the best traditions of America and of India,” Ray said. Evacuation and rescue operations were done by government agencies, but most of the Indian-Americans stayed with friends or families around.
“The community network has been strong and welcoming to even strangers who needed a place,” said Jitin Aggarwal, a software entrepreneur and philanthropist. Community shelters are being run in the city by several temples, Muslim associations, Gurudwaras and churches. And, a massive, selfless volunterism is at display at these places.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Houston, India Cafe, Biryani Pot, Dawoodi Bohra Community delivered hot meals to thousands of Americans. Harvey was a monster, but he also was a teacher with a very clear lesson: sometimes it takes the worst of moments to see people in their finest hour, said Dinesh Purohit, owner India Cafe, who has been serving food to temples, churches, sheltors, homes.
“They came and rescued me, otherwise I dont know where I would be as water was coming fast and furious. They got me out to a safer place upstairs and after the hurricane was over they have been enormously helping and rebuilding and throwing the bad stuff away,” Marlyn Datz, one elderly American who was rescued by SEWA team said.
Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on August 25 in Texas, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days. The storm brought five straight days of rain totaling close to 52 inches at one location, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental US.