Hyderabad’s flood relief efforts face COVID-19 challenges

COVID-19 tests are being conducted at all relief centres to curb the spread of the virus.
Flood relief work in Hyderabad amid pandemic
Flood relief work in Hyderabad amid pandemic
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Hyderabad is reeling from widespread flooding and heavy rains that have slammed the city this past week. But efforts to deal with the situation have been compounded by challenges, especially with regards to maintaining COVID-19 precautionary measures. Many feel that having to cope with both the flooding and the pandemic has created a tough and traumatising situation for residents, as well as for rescue and relief measures. 

The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GMHC) District Medical and Health Officer told TNM that COVID-19 tests were being conducted at all relief centres to curb the spread of the virus. As of October 17, at least 2,000 samples were tested at different relief centres set up by the government in the GMHC limits, and 19 tested positive for coronavirus. Out of 1,486 positive cases reported on Monday night, the GHMC recorded 235 new cases. The state currently has 20,686 active cases.

‘Risky both ways’

Puranapool Majlis E Ittehadul Muslimin (MIM) Corporator Sunnam Raj Mohan told TNM that relief and medical care was being provided amidst several obstacles. "When the rains first arrived, two casualties took place. We had convinced others in dilapidated homes to vacate. Yes, it was risky in both ways, but we had to do it to prevent any untoward incidents."

He noted that medical officers at relief camps and local government officials are conducting COVID-19 tests for the symptomatic persons. Hospitals at Paly Garden and Doodhkana are also continuing COVID-19 treatment, he said. 

According to Telangana Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD) K Tarakarama Rao (KTR), around 37,000 people were moved to different relief camps. As the water recedes in their localities, they are going back to their houses. 

Kishan Bagh Corporator Saleem said, "When the houses in low-lying areas were evacuated, we ensured that people who came to relief centres were tested for COVID-19. As the water receded, people went back to their homes. The situation as far as this area is concerned is not as bad as it was three days ago."

In Falaknuma area, one of the worst affected areas after two days of rain, officials of GHMC and Disaster Response Force (DRF) have taken on rescue and relief operations. According to the local Corporator, it became tough for people to follow safety guidelines in the face of floods. The Corporator said, "Medical tests were done and required medicines were provided, besides other provisions."

Relief groups face hurdles

"It became extremely difficult to carry out rescue works. We have even rescued COVID-19 patients. They were reluctant to take our help but we didn't want any harm to happen to them," said Mohammad Asif Hussain Sohail of Sakina Foundation, which rescued over 500 people in Nadeem Colony, Virasat Nagar, Shaikpet, Chabra, Al Jubail Colony and other parts. The group used two private boats to rescue people, and has also been providing food for 4000 people daily for the last one week.

When asked how difficult it is to adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines during this situation, he said, "It is certainly impossible for affected people to be wearing masks or gloves at a time when there is a threat of flooding and inundation. We managed to rescue hundreds and gave them the required medical care and medicines."

Humanity First Foundation (HFF), a city-based NGO, is carrying out relief activities by providing basic food provisions in the areas like Falaknuma, Hafizbabanagar, Osmannagar and Balapur. However, the involvement in relief activities has become risky for people and volunteers.

Founder of HFF Sujath Ullah, "The floods amid the pandemic are a pathetic combination. Many are affected by floods and fear COVID-19. We are trying to take all measures, such as gloves, masks and sanitisers when our volunteers are distributing provisions to people. We will continue to reach out as many families as we can."

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