A helping hand to a city ravaged by the rains;
Heavy rains of unprecedented scale began on July 26th, 2005 turned deadly in many parts of Maharashtra and especially in its capital city, Mumbai. Four days of relentless raining which measured a whopping 94.4 cm in a single day, claimed almost 1094 lives and became one among the worst natural disasters the nation had ever witnessed. Within minutes, most part of Mumbai became submerged and as the rains continued, the deluge turned more and more deadlier, making the entire city come to a standstill.
Millions of lives were affected in Mumbai, one of the most populous cities in the world as flooding and landslides took at least a thousand lives and washed away countless homes. Panvel was the among the worst hit areas where many small villages were submerged in eight to 10 feet of water, destroying most of the hutments here. In addition, tens of thousands were stranded in their offices for three days as the flash floods had paralyzed almost all kinds of land transportation. As more roads became unusable, the situation became worse in the city as large no. of people were stranded without food, water and medical aid.
As the rains were continuing, the Mumbai branch of the MAM sprang into action and began relief activities in Panvel, the worst-hit area in Navi Mumbai as well as other areas like Borivili, Dahisar and Goregaon. The volunteers started the effort by distributing cooked food at the MAM Mumbai to the hundreds of refugees staying in two makeshift shelters at Ambedkar Nagar and Shirovane.
The MAM medical team comprised of three doctors, two fully equipped ambulances, seven paramedics, two nurses and two pharmacists. Even though the medical team reached Mumbai quickly, initially the focus was not on providing medical care but on distributing food and household items such as kerosene stoves, sleeping mats, bed sheets, clothing, cooking vessels, rice grain and dhal in worst-hit places such as Nerul, Panvel, Khidkupada and Badlapur.
Once the situation became under control, the medics started their work. They attended to more than 1,500 patients every day and distributed a total of two tons of medicines worth of Rs. 20 lakh / $46,500 which was sent from the Ashram’s AIMS Hospital in Cochin. Due to the large number of patients at each camp, the medical team ran out of medicines soon but Vilasarao Desmukh, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, had asked the F.D.A. to provide medicines to the MAM in appreciation of the great work being rendered by the medical team.
“The worst-hit areas were the slums in place likes Kalyan, Badlapur, Kurla and Panvel,” said Dr. Chandrasekhar, a Brahmachari at the Amrita Kripa Charitable Hospital in Amritapuri who was sent by Amma to Mumbai. He went on to say that they had found plenty of patients who had not received any medication and the first volunteer organizations to arrive on the scene had already departed. It was still raining heavily but a lot of people were standing at the queues for medicines.
Infectious diseases were the most common among flood victims, said Dr. Chandrasekhar. The team came across a lot of lung infection and skin infection cases, diseases commonly found in people who happen to stay very long in standing water. He notes that there were a few cases of malaria, dengue fever, typhoid and leptospirosis but fortunately, no sort of epidemic outbreak was observed. Also, the team found many pregnant women and people suffering from malnutrition and anemia.
The MAM operated teams out of Nerul which is home to one of Amma’s branch ashrams. They had serviced two relief camps, provided medical care and distributed three meals a day for six days. Dr. Chandrasekhar reflected that the worst-affected were the poor, who had lost everything- homes, domestic animals and the means of livelihood- to the floods but he expressed hope that they could come back to life with the support MAM had provided. The relief activities of MAM lasted for three weeks and it became very useful in providing food, essential supplies and medical aid to a large no. of people who were stranded in a city devoured by the deluge.