Malayalee community in Singapore worried for loved ones in Kerala

Rescuers evacuating people from a flooded area in Aluva, Kerala, yesterday. Some of the victims have reached out to their families and friends in Singapore for help. Mr Rajesh Chandran (far left)with his family at the family home in Kerala last year.
Rescuers evacuating people from a flooded area in Aluva, Kerala, yesterday. Some of the victims have reached out to their families and friends in Singapore for help. PHOTO: REUTERS
Rescuers evacuating people from a flooded area in Aluva, Kerala, yesterday. Some of the victims have reached out to their families and friends in Singapore for help. Mr Rajesh Chandran (far left)with his family at the family home in Kerala last year.
Mr Rajesh Chandran (far left) with his family at the family home in Kerala last year. He lost contact with them for more than 24 hours last week after electricity was cut off when the first storey of their house was flooded.PHOTO: COURTESY OF RAJESH CHANDRAN

Singapore Malayalee Association, Red Cross start public donation drives to help flood victims

For three days last week, Singapore permanent resident Rajesh Chandran, 47, was desperately calling helplines in India to get help for his family trapped in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

When he spoke to them last Thursday, his elderly parents, sister and brother-in-law were stranded without electricity on the second storey of their house, as the first storey was flooded with waters about 1.2m high.

As the flooding worsened, Mr Chandran even lost all contact with them for more than 24 hours when their phones ran out of battery power. He managed to contact them only late on Friday night.

"The most terrible part is not being able to contact them... You don't know what is happening," said Mr Chandran, an IT consultant.

He is one of many Malayalees - who originate from Kerala - living here whose families and friends have been affected by the flooding crisis back home.

The state has been hit by some of the worst floods in a century in the past week, leaving more than 300 dead and thousands more trapped by the waters after record monsoon rainfall.

The crisis left many here worried, including Mr Sunil, whose elderly parents and in-laws live in Kerala.

Mr Sunil, who is in his 40s and works in the social service sector, said his parents fled without most of their belongings after rising waters forced them out of their one-storey home.

His parents-in-law were also stranded on their house's terrace and were cut off from water and food supplies for about 48 hours before a rescue team reached them.

"Now it's much better. My parents and in-laws are safe, but many of my relatives and neighbours are still in trouble," said Mr Sunil, who wanted to be known only by his first name.

HELICOPTER NEEDED

Please give us a helicopter. I am begging you. Please help us; people in my place will die.

MR SAJI CHERIAN, who represents Chengannur in the Kerala assembly. He said he feared there were at least 50 dead in the town.

Meanwhile, local groups have stepped forward to offer help. The Singapore Malayalee Association (SMA) will be working with other community and business groups here to raise funds.

They plan to set up a tent in Little India by tomorrow to collect public donations for relief efforts.

"Our ancestors are from Kerala, so we have close contact with the Malayalee community in Kerala and many of our relatives are there still," said SMA president Jayakumar Narayanan.

Friends and families back home have also asked for help to expedite the rescue process, said engineer Ullas Kumar, 44.

While his parents in Kerala were unaffected by the floods, Mr Kumar had to help a friend who was trapped in his house.

"You're just waiting for the water to come up and take away your life. It's not like an accident where it's immediate... You're waiting for one or two days for the waters to rise. I can't imagine the anxiety he was feeling," said Mr Kumar.

"It's innocent people that are being affected. It's very sad."

The Singapore Red Cross has also started a fundraising appeal.

NO WATER, FOOD OR COMMUNICATION

No water and food. Not able to communicate from afternoon. Mobile phones are not reachable... Please help.

AJO VARGHESE, a resident of the coastal city of Alappuzha, in a Facebook post that quickly went viral.

The public can make their donations at Red Cross House, 15 Penang Lane from Monday to Friday between 9am and 6pm.

Cheques can be made payable to "Singapore Red Cross Society" and posted to the same address.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 19, 2018, with the headline 'Malayalee community in S'pore worried for loved ones in Kerala'. Print Edition | Subscribe