As Hurricane Florence has hit the East Coast of the United States, Sewa International, an Indian American nonprofit with extensive experience in disaster rescue, and relief and rehabilitation, has set up a hot-line – (413) 648-SEWA (7392) – to assist Indian Americans, and U.S. residents in general, in advance of Hurricane Florence approaching the East Coast.
Much before Hurricane Florence made landfall on Thursday, September 13th, the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia had issued mandatory evacuation orders affecting more than one million residents in the coastal areas. The Carolinas have not seen a category 3 hurricane in 22 years.
The three affected states have a large Indian American population, some of whom would be facing their first major hurricane ever, according to press release.
Sewa International’s director of Disaster Relief, Swadesh Katoch, said: “Stores have already run out of essential supplies like water, bread, and bananas. Generators, storm radios, and sand bags are also difficult to find. Most gas stations in the coastal areas are running out of gas, and those who still have gas are jacking up the price.”
Katoch said that last year’s response to Hurricanes Harvey and Maria taught his team how to better respond to future events. He is rolling out a full disaster preparedness plan – including a remote operations center, teams on the ground in all major cities, and lining up logistics to haul in supplies after the storm, if needed.
Kiran Krishna, chapter president of Sewa Raleigh, and Venugopal Reddy, chapter president of Sewa Charlotte, are networking with government officials to keep the Indian American community informed and prepared.
Sewa International has been using social media to post regular alerts and updates about the hurricane. Local Sewa teams in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland are working with local temples and Indian organizations to keep the community together and be prepared to help each other. Sewa teams in Atlanta and Boston are organizing to host evacuees, the release said.
“We are especially concerned about the vulnerable population, such as people who are home-bound, sick, or have very young children. We are circulating WhatsApp messages with helpful information on how to prepare and tide over Hurricane Florence and its aftermath. While our hot-line number is available all the time, the best way to stay updated with us is to like our Facebook page – Sewa International,” said Prof. Sreenath, president of Sewa International.
“We are urging people in the optional evacuation areas to not wait for the last minute. If you think you may have to evacuate, leave now,” said Krishna.
Sewa International has helped in 23 disasters in the U.S. and abroad. Last year during Hurricane Harvey, its volunteers helped rescue nearly 700 people, and have served thousands of affected families since then.
Sewa raised $2 million for Harvey recovery, the release said, including a grant of $400,000 from the Houston Mayor’s fund, and a $500,000 grant from the American Red Cross. Sewa continues to rebuild houses and provide case management to affected families more than one year after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, it added.