Let’s Talk Floods – Part I

I know this sounds all ridiculous and shiz, blogging during times like these but seriously though, there is a lot that needs to be written during this time, which I would not want to Tweet out or share through Facebook posts because between you and I, I’ve been a bit of an overshare these days and I just am not liking it. Tough times.

Also as a disclaimer if I may add, the most of the following is based on the 1/gazillionth of what I witnessed and a few pointers here and there were from if-I-was-in-their-shoes thinking times while driving all the way back to dotèy. But as a Millennial in Colombo, I had not seen a “live flood” before and I think what I saw shook me beyond words can say.

  1. For Victims

Leave your homes if you must or are asked to. Yes, there are looters and thieves who will boat themselves into your house and steal your things but if there is a God and there is Karma, they won’t get very far.

Yes, you would not want to leave either your newly built and furnished house, trust me, we just shifted and I wouldn’t want to either. But if you are supposed to evacuate, please co-operate and do so.

Do not keep asking for food parcels to be sent to you, because these boats can instead carry people back to safer higher land.

If you do not leave your house with those who have come to rescue you, do not think that boats and 4x4s will come to your at your beck and call.

You should realise that there is no electricity and access to clean water and what will you drink or cook with?

Are you also aware that water-borne diseases, mosquitos, rat fever, waste water and Heaven knows what else are floating in the water you might be calf-deep walking in?

So please evacuate and most importantly co-operate with those co-ordinating these rescue missions. On the same lines, if there is a God and there is Karma, genuine people will always be rewarded and given back.

Avoid posting on social media while important yes, is not vital. Remember that there still might be people who will be in a danger zone in a few days time should the rains not stop. The last we should do is cause them unwanted panic and stress.

Unless you think that it helps deal with the grief, try to avoid generating conversation around the topic. Honestly, talking about it is not going to bring your things back and it makes us sad too as we are genuinely helpless and cannot do anything to better the situation either.

Finally, on the lines of co-operation, I know it’s hard and maybe I don’t empathise, but please do not complain. I don’t mean to sound like a bit of a coloniser and sound like a bit of a slaver type, but seriously, people are worried for you and we are doing our best to help you. We make the food with care for you so yes, it might not be a luxurious meal as we are looking at cooking for masses.

2. For Volunteers

For those on the ground, thank you for all that you are doing. It is making a difference and people are being saved, so thank you.

For those at home not able to go out and are behind a screen online, thank you as you help with the dissemination of information.

For those who are interested in volunteering, seek out volunteering opportunities first. Facebook is a good place to start and most of these posts seem genuine. At the moment, the main focus is rescue missions and cooked food, so if that is something you do not have the capacity to accommodate, think of putting together lists or helping out with co-ordination and getting information across to the correct channels.

Another way you could volunteer would be offer to drive around people. There is a lot of food and donations going up and down. Offer to pick up and drop off things, so that’s a great thing you could do. If you own boats, tippers or 4x4s, offer to go to the flood affected areas, it would be so great of you.

If you live in the area or in a neighbouring town, open your doors to others. Make tea and give water to those on the ground. Give them your phone chargers or wifi so they can get through to their other family and friends.

For the Forces, Disaster Management Centre and other local authorities, thank you for all that you are doing. While there are many things we feel that could’ve the extent of this calamity, we will save that conversation for another day.

On the other side of things, try to keep your phones charged and families and friends informed. You are doing great things, but remember that you too have people who care about you and await to hear from you. Wear protective gear or shoes or be aware of what you are getting your body into, just like for the victims, you too have the risk of stepping into something you would rather wish you didn’t.

Also on the social media side of things, it’s great to post the work you do and all, let’s try to refrain from being a bit of an overshare with the pictures and be mindful of what you post. People are sensitive in times like these.

3. For Donors

Thank you again for what you are doing. A lot of these people would not be where they are if not for you.

There is however something that concerns me. This collection of dry rations. While you might have your own reasons for collecting what you do, I think it’s important to give people food they can consume. So if you cannot cook for a large group of people, a loaf bread and a bottle of jam per family is better food than ten kilos of rice.

Other donate-worthy items during my if-I-was-in-their-shoes times, I thought would be good include:

  • Torches
  • Candles / matches
  • Shoes / slippers
  • Towels
  • Dettol
  • Soap
  • Pillow / sleeping items
  • Medicine items for injuries
  • Mortein / mosquito coils

4. For General Public

Yes, you are concerned and so are we. But if you do not have the means to help or volunteer, STAY AWAY FROM THE FLOODS (or landslides). The guy helping us get my family back to safe land called the “tourists” who would park their “little vehicles” (not to sound demeaning, I too drive a little car but at times like these, we need big vehicles at times like this) and go for “walks” in my over-mentioned water-borne disease-d, mosquito-ridden, rat fever-infected, waste water-ridden water, WITH FAMILIES and little children, if I may add.

Please stay away damnit. For fuck’s sake, stay away. If there is an emergency, volunteers and forces have a lot of other responsibilities and saving these “tourists” are not on their priority list.

Yes, it is important to see this disaster and take to heart the extent of what has happened, if I hadn’t either, I don’t think I would be as driven to do what I do with my Mum, but it’s not a spectacle or something we ought to take a selfie in.

Also, please try to be civilised and please refrain from taking food packets and water brought for those in need and for volunteers.

Post-Disaster

This is the section where I feel require the most amount of importance. At the moment, from what I see, there is a lot of help coming in from all over, which is great. But what happens after the quake (or flood and landslides)?

My Mum and I thought long and hard about this because we know our capacity and what we are capable of: we are neither lifeguards nor rescue mission workers nor own big vehicles. What we are good at is co-ordination, putting together medical camps and gathering people. Hence, the two of us and a couple of other close friends are planning on putting together a post-flood relief stall or hut that would have cook-in stalls (for meals), cleaning up (for houses) and trauma counselling in the Kotikawatte and Wellampitiya areas as we have a few basic connections to get things moving. What we need then will be written in a later post, so till then, stay safe out there.

P.S. I know that there are other affected areas in the country and Kegalle is suffering from landslides, and all I can think of is sending them my hope and sunshine all the way from here.

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