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09-07-2013 | Latest News , Asia & Pacific

India: River waters sweep away entire villages; Red Cross brings relief


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, who was sent to Uttarakhand with the Red Cross Disaster Response Team. “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.

From the onset of the disaster, over 100 trained Indian Red Cross volunteers have responded to the needs of those affected by providing first aid, navigation assistance, emergency shelter, clothing and blankets. The Red Cross has also brought news of survivors to their loved ones and is now providing safe drinking water.

The flooding disaster in Uttarakhand has highlighted the important role of preparedness and training for volunteers prior to disasters. The Uttarakhand state Red Cross branch 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 first medical responder concept was developed with emergency community response in mind,” said Dr IS Pal from the Red Cross Uttarakhand branch. “The training has been put to the test following this disaster and the actions of our volunteer in the first days saved many lives.”

Red Cross is continuing to carry out assessments to get a more accurate picture of the humanitarian needs. 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.

“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.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is providing support to the operation, including committing over 479,000 Swiss Francs (390,000 Euros) through its Disaster Response Emergency Fund.

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