Over a thousand lives have been lost and many more remain missing following the worst floods to strike Uttarakhand, India, in over 80 years. With over 105,000 people evacuated to safety, the focus of the response is now on supporting the needs of local communities.
“Many families had to leave their homes, some have had their entire house swept away by the deluge,” said Dr. Kumar, Red Cross Disaster Response Team, Uttarakhand. “In one place we were shown a photograph of an area which was taken before the flood. Now there is nothing there, only the river,” he added.
As many as 2,000 villages have been damaged and some entirely destroyed. With over 1,600 roads and 147 bridges damaged, accessing all of the affected communities remains a challenge.
Over 100 Red Cross volunteers have responded to the needs of those affected by providing first aid, navigation assistance, emergency shelter, clothing and blankets and by bringing news of survivors to their loved ones. The Red Cross is now also providing safe drinking water to affected communities.
“The road to recovery for these many small communities will be a long one,” said SP Agarwal, Secretary General of Indian Red Cross. “Red Cross was there right from the onset of this disaster and we will continue to work with communities to support their recovery. Providing safe drinking water to avoid disease outbreak from water contamination is the current focus of our operation.”
Red Cross is planning to reach 10,000 families with emergency supplies including blankets, kitchen sets, clothing, towels, bed sheets, buckets and tarpaulins over the coming weeks.
The flooding disaster in Uttarakhand has highlighted the important role of preparedness and training for volunteers prior to disasters. The Red Cross in Uttarakhand had already trained volunteers in first medical response training, where they learnt important skills in first aid, psychosocial support and other aspects of disaster response - “The training has been put to the test following this disaster and the actions of our volunteer in the first days saved lives”, said Dr IS Pal.
Image and story from Stephen Ryan in Uttarakhand, India