The southern Indian state of Kerala is facing its worst floods in 100 years, which have claimed at least 370 lives and displaced over 800,000 people.
The estimated damage in the state has crossed Rs19,000 crore ($2.72 billion). And as the state continues to battle with the situation, aid is coming in from all quarters.
From young Indian businesses devising innovative ways to help the affected, to legacy companies and state governments making donations, everyone seems to be going all out to help the flood victims of Kerala.
Tech and relief
India’s new-age technology companies have stepped in to mobilise financial and logistical support for the state.
For instance, India’s largest homegrown e-tailer, Flipkart, and grocery delivery app BigBasket have tied up with non-profit organisations such as Goonj and Oxfam India to let shoppers buy and donate relief goods. Shoppers can spend on small items like soaps and mosquito repellents, or even big-ticket ones like water purifiers. The companies are delivering these orders to the relief organisations free of cost.
Amazon India, the Indian subsidiary of America’s largest online retailer, is also offering the facility to its shoppers. ”Our last-mile logistics team in the affected districts is helping out NGO partners,” an Amazon India spokesperson said.
In addition, mobile wallet firm Paytm has introduced an option for users to directly transfer money to the Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund. The Noida-based company has said it will match the amount that users donate with an equal contribution from its side.
On Aug. 18, Paytm said donations from its platform had crossed Rs10 crore ($1.4 million).
Meanwhile, food-delivery platform Zomato has tied up with Akshay Patra, which runs the school lunch programme across India, to let users donate set meals for people at the relief camps.
Besides getting access to supplies, the web is also helping Keralites in other ways.
Internet and social media
Search giant Google has activated its Person Finder tool that lets people upload information about their location and needs to add to a searchable database.
In addition, for Android users, Google has launched a feature called Plus Code, which lets people generate a six or seven-character code for their whereabouts that can be shared over voice call or SMS with rescue workers.
Social media platform Facebook has turned on its Crisis Response feature, which allows people to search for and offer assistance such as medical supplies in the flood-hit areas. Users can also mark themselves safe to their contacts with the Safety Check option on the platform.
Corporates, too, have stepped in.
Motor vehicle companies TVS and Hyundai India have donated Rs1 crore ($143,000) each to the relief fund.
Telecom operators have relaxed their voice calling and data limits. Reliance Jio has announced free internet and voice calls for a week, while Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, and BSNL are also offering free internet and limited free calling services.
Airlines are flying additional flights to and from Kerala as travel becomes more viable once the flood waters recede. Indian Railways is transporting relief supplies without charge.
The union government initially gave the state Rs100 crore as an immediate relief after the state requested Rs1,220 crore. On Aug. 18, prime minister Narendra Modi released an additional Rs500 crore ($71.6 million) after visiting flood-hit regions to assess the situation.
Several Indian states and union territories have also pitched in.
West Asian countries, which employ up to 10% of Kerala’s population, have sent help.
The UAE reportedly formed an emergency committee for aid to Kerala. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, ruler of Sharjah city of the UAE, has donated Rs4 crore. Qatar announced $5 million (Rs35 crore) and Oman dispatched a flight with relief goods.
Indian business persons in the UAE announced a donation of Rs12.5 crore ($1.8 million) for relief efforts. Kerala has strong roots in the Gulf and remittances from the region are a key income source for the state.