Indian-Americans urged to raise funds for Harvey relief

The Indian-American community in Houston met at the Indian Consulate after Ray’s appeal to coordinate a fund-raising effort by the community. Related News

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which brought rampage in the US state of Texas, the Consul General of India here has appealed to Indian diaspora to raise USD 1 million worth of funds for relief operations. Consul General of India (CGI) Anupam Ray urged the Indian-American community to coordinate large scale funding for the relief and reconstruction to support the historic storm’s victims.

“The idea is to consolidate the fund raising efforts of the community and present an aggregated picture of the community’s efforts,” Ray told PTI. “To show our commitment to, and support of, the greater Houston community, we would like to organise a fund raising effort to support the mayor’s fund for Hurricane Harvey Relief and Rebuild Texas Fund by Governor Abbott,” he said, adding that they have set a goal to raise USD 1 million.

The Indian-American community in Houston met at the Indian Consulate after Ray’s appeal to coordinate a fund-raising effort by the community. Ray explained that the two funds set up to help the rebuilding effort in south and southeast Texas by the governor will allow members of the community to identify and track their contribution by writing a code on their mode of donation.

In addition, those wishing to become signatories to the appeal to attract others to donate can do so by having their name added to the list of individuals, organisations and companies which have already done so. He indicated that the desire is to help build a strong “Indian brand” in the region and that the three Indian oil companies with offices here -– GAIL, Oil India and ONGC had committed to contributing USD 10 thousand each.

Also, Michael , founder and CEO of Dell Computers, has declared that he will donate an amount equivalent to what is given to the governor’s fund. Gitesh Desai, president of SEVA International, who had been actively coordinating with majority of volunteers, requested to include his organisation as one of the beneficiaries along with the mayor and the governor’s relief funds.

The SEVA International is working on the ground and has rescued 687 people so far from the catastrophic floods brought by Harvey. Jagdip Ahluwalia of the Indo American Chamber of Commerce said the Chamber would help businesses re-establish. India house pledged to raise USD 50K for each fund.

IACF president-elect Mahesh Wadhwa pledged USD 100k, with USD 25k coming from current president Vanitha Pothuri. Arun Verma of Sri Sita Ram Foundation also pledged USD 10k.

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Florida residents heed Irma warnings after Hurricane Harvey’s destruction

A power generator tips in front of Texas’ CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, as Hurricane Harvey hits Friday. (Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times via AP) Related News

Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in Texas may not have altered Florida’s well-tested storm plans, but it appears to have infused residents with a new sense of urgency as they prepare for approaching Hurricane Irma. Officials said Harvey’s devastating flooding, coupled with the sheer power of Irma, ranked as the strongest Atlantic storm on record, had sharpened the focus of Floridians who were somewhat indifferent about preparing for past hurricanes.

“A lot of times they end up having hurricane parties here instead of evacuating,” Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said by phone. “That’s been the opposite this time around.” Monroe County includes the Florida Keys, which ordered evacuations for all residents and tourists. Clark said she saw a steady stream of traffic leaving the travel destination as she drove to work early on Wednesday.

The US National Hurricane Center forecasts that Irma may strike southern Florida on Saturday, when it could still be a major hurricane. As it neared Puerto Rico on Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (295 kph), Irma was a Category 5 storm, the highest level on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity.

“This storm is bigger, faster and stronger than Hurricane Andrew,” Florida Governor Rick Scott told a news conference on Wednesday, referring to one of the costliest storms in U.S. history that struck southern Miami-Dade County 25 years ago. For south Florida, Hurricane Irma “is a once-in-a-generation storm. It’s the Big One for us,” Ed Rappaport, acting director of the hurricane center, told WFOR-TV in Miami on Wednesday evening.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Wednesday evening announced mandatory evacuations for most of the county’s coastal cities beginning at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on Thursday. Miami-Dade has a population of 2.7 million. The evacuation orders affect more than 100,000 residents, the Miami Herald reported. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine had already urged residents of that city on Tuesday to evacuate. “We don’t want any heroes,” he said. “We want people to bring themselves to a safer place than a barrier island.”

‘THEY’RE NOT PLAYING’

Officials across Florida said they saw signs of people taking Irma more seriously than past storms. Residents were stocking up on water and batteries and even complaining that county leaders were not being quick enough to announce evacuations, said Don Walker, spokesman for Brevard County Emergency Management.

Houston officials were criticized for not ordering an evacuation ahead of the flooding that left hundreds of people in the country’s fourth-largest city trapped in their homes. “Everyone is really in tune with this storm system. My neighbors are talking about it, and we don’t usually do that,” Walker said. For years, many Florida residents, joined by an ever-growing number of newcomers, paid little heed to hurricane warnings as most opted to stay in their homes, county officials said.

Not this time around.

“I’ll tell you for the community, heck yeah, they’re taking this more seriously,” said Teri Barbera, spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, noting that many stores were out of bottled water by Monday. “They’re not playing.”

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Indian-Americans help in massive evacuation, rescue operations during ‘Harvey’

In this Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, photo, the Rev. Mark Goring passes by trash from Hurricane Harvey in Houston. The Catholic priest has been inundated with requests for spiritual guidance in the aftermath of the storm, but has also been tending to people’s material needs, organizing a huge relief effort. (AP Photo) Top News

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.

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Queen Elizabeth II ‘deeply saddened’ by Hurricane Harvey

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and the devastation following the recent terrible floods caused by Hurricane Harvey,” the message from Buckingham Palace said. (File photo) Top News

Britain’s Queen has said she is “deeply saddened” by the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, one of the most destructive storms in US history.

The monarch and her husband, Prince Philip – the Duke of Edinburgh, sent their condolences to the families of the 39 people known to have died in Texas in a message to US President Donald Trump. The death toll has since risen to 47.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and the devastation following the recent terrible floods caused by Hurricane Harvey,” the message from Buckingham Palace said.

“Prince Philip and I send our sincere condolences to the victims of this disaster, to those who have lost loved ones and to those who have seen their homes and property destroyed,” the message said.

Tens of thousands of people have been homeless in widespread floods caused by tropical cyclone Hurricane Harvey.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency said about 364,000 people had already sought federal emergency aid because of the hurricane.

The storm initially made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Texas on August 25 before going back out to sea.

It became a tropical storm for days, flooding Texas cities including Houston before moving on to the neighbouring state of Louisiana.

Trump is proposing an initial USD 5.9 billion for recovery efforts but the Texas authorities say the state might need more than 125 billion dollars.

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Donald Trump to visit victims of unprecedented floods in Texas and Louisiana

The Trump administration in a letter to Congress asked for a .85 billion appropriation for response and initial recovery efforts. (File photo) Related News

US President Donald Trump travels to Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana on Saturday to meet victims of catastrophic storm Harvey, one of the worst natural disasters in US history that is presenting a test of his administration.

While Trump visits, attention will also be focused on Minute Maid Park, where baseball’s Houston Astros play their first home games since Harvey devastated the fourth-most populous US city. The Saturday doubleheader with the New York Mets is expected to be wrought with emotion and punctuated with moments to honor the dozens who died as a result of Harvey.

The storm, one of the costliest to hit the United States, has displaced more than 1 million people, with 50 feared dead from flooding that paralyzed Houston, swelled river levels to record highs and knocked out the drinking water supply in Beaumont, Texas, a city of 120,000 people.

Hurricane Harvey came ashore last Friday as the strongest storm to hit Texas in more than 50 years. Much of the damage took place in the Houston metropolitan area, which has an economy about the same size as Argentina’s.

Seventy percent of Harris County, which encompasses Houston, at one point was covered with 18 inches (45 cm) or more of water, county officials said.

Trump first visited the Gulf region on Tuesday, but stayed clear of the disaster zone, saying he did not want to hamper rescue efforts. Instead, he met with state and local leaders, and first responders.

He was criticized, however, for not meeting with victims of the worst storm to hit Texas in 50 years, and for largely focusing on the logistics of the government response rather than the suffering of residents.

The White House said Trump will first travel to Houston to meet with flood survivors and volunteers who assisted in relief efforts and then move on to Lake Charles, another area hammered by the storm.

The Trump administration in a letter to Congress asked for a $7.85 billion appropriation for response and initial recovery efforts. White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert has said aid funding requests would come in stages as more became known about the impact of the storm.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said that his state may need more than $125 billion.

The storm, which lingered around the Gulf of Mexico Coast for days, dumped record amounts of rain and left devastation across more than 300 miles (480 km) of the state’s coast.

As water receded, many returned to survey the damage and left hundreds of thousands wondering how they can recover.

In Orange, Texas, about 125 miles (200 kms) east of Houston, Sam Dougharty, 36, returned on Friday where waist-high water remained in his backyard and barn.

His family’s house smelled like raw sewage and was still flooded to the ankles. A calf and a heifer from their herd of 15 were dead. The chickens were sagging on the top two roosts of their coop.

“We never had water here. This is family land. My aunt’s owned it for 40 years and never had water here,” he said.

FROM THE SHELTER TO THE STADIUM

Harvey came on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed about 1,800 around New Orleans. Then-U.S. President ’s administration was roundly criticized for its botched early response to the storm.

Some of the tens of thousands of people forced into shelters by Harvey will attend the Astros game where Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will throw out the first pitch and a moment of silence in planned for those who perished.

Sports have helped other cities rebound from catastrophe, such as when the New York Mets played the first baseball game in their damaged city 10 days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or when the New Orleans Saints returned to the Superdome in 2006 for football a year after Hurricane Katrina.

In the Harris County area of Clear Creek, the nearly 50 inches (127 cm) of rain that fell there equated to a once in a 40,000 year event, Jeff Lindner, meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District, said.

Some 440,000 Texans have already applied for federal financial disaster assistance, and some $79 million has been approved so far, Abbott said.

The storm shut about a fourth of U.S. refinery capacity, much of which is clustered along the Gulf Coast, and caused gasoline prices to spike to a two-year high ahead of the long Labor Day holiday weekend.

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has risen more than 17.5 cents since the storm struck, hitting $2.59 as of Saturday morning, motorists group AAA said.

Meanwhile a new storm, Irma, had strengthened on Friday into a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. It remained hundreds of miles from land but was forecast to possibly hit Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti by the middle of next week.

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