The meaning of the word ‘Relief’

August 9th, 8:30 am  – Relatives in Palakkad recount water level rising experiences. I was to travel the next day to Palakkad with my 4 year old daughter. Long story cut short, I did not travel.

August 10th, whole day – Vivid descriptions of floods in parts of Kerala that had never experienced such situations before.

August 11th and 12th, whole day – Wondering which part of Kerala needs support and how best to work on this.

August 13th and 14th, whole day – Watching scenes after scenes of cars, houses being submerged underwater

August 15th – Experienced the torrential rains non-stop for 24 hours in our part of the world! Saw offices that we go to daily slowly being flooded…

August 16th – Reading and listening to horrific accounts of people stuck all over Kerala in pathetic situations. Finally managed to get the housing society folks to work together and get some materials organised. On this day started seeing how the various bodies – government, NGOs, institutions and public and individuals are trying to work together.

August 17th – Coordinating to send material, volunteers and rescue teams to different places. Felt at times that all of no avail. And at other times, let’s just do whatever we can.

August 18th – Feeling overwhelmed at all that is yet to be done but holding on to the hope that human spirit to survive and improve will suppress negativity.

Lessons learnt

WhatsApp and Facebook are useful and dangerous at the same time – since they are easy to use lots of people are relying on information and sending information using them. However many times the information is either wrong or outdated. Tons of examples of rescue teams searching for people already found, food made for relief camps which already got them and more importantly truckloads of items which were not required in those places.

Time stamps and verified should be part of every message that you send! This needs absolute attention in this information accuracy situation. Even one hour later that information may not be valid. So if you are forwarding it again please verify from your end. Or if you are the originator, you can add your own number too so that you can confirm if the request is still valid.

Central database of rescued – since there are multiple agencies at multiple locations working there is no one database of all rescued. When mobile phones of those that need rescuing do not work and others are active on WhatsApp and FB are active, this creates a lot of unnecessary duplication and concern. And relief efforts that can go to required places are lost in unnecessary directions.

Central database of relief camps – this is really needed to ensure we don’t waste food, water and other materials. Too many instances in other states where there has been excess of items deposited or stocked. Families in these camps are as it is living in squalid conditions…

Central database of resources – collection centres have sprung up in loads but where there is a need no one knows where to go. Hot food suppliers, rescue team numbers and many such resources are being hunted on daily basis….

No clear methodology on how to search for people or send rescue help – Every person is hanging on to any contact they know to find people. Many times they are searching in the wrong place or going in loops. They will share in a group and a network of people will trigger multiple contacts for the same situation. And as already said, the delays in information being passed on causes more havoc.

It must have been the biggest lesson for all of us in Kerala – hopefully we are taking steps to be better prepared – because there is not denying that Nature will take its revenge!

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