Unity after the storm
Community organizations rally together to fight hurricane damage. George Joseph reports
Though there were no reports of injuries
in the Indian-American community that
fell in Hurricane Irene’s path, the property
damage was extensive.
Many areas, especially in New Jersey
and New York, were still flooded at the
time of going to press and several people
were staying with relatives or friends.
Those who returned to their homes
found the basement flooded and much of
the electrical equipment unusable.
Rashmin Kharva of Iselin, New Jersey,
said his basement was flooded with two
feet of water. He and his wife tried remov-
ing the water using buckets, but could not
do much, as the water continued to rise.
Now the water is gone, but the damage
remains. The utilities in the basement like
the AC unit, washer, dryer, and other
equipment are damaged. The thermostat
does not work either.
“Replacing or repairing these appliances
may cost thousands of dollars,” he said.
“We called the insurance people, but they
are not sure when they will send some-
body to survey the damage. Till then we
cannot remove the damaged things, even
the carpets,” Kharva, a civil engineer, said.
He has no information if he is eligible for help from fed-
eral agencies like the Federal Emergency Management
Agency or from the state or local government.
Anju Bhargava of the Hindu American Seva
Charities had no Internet connection till September
1, though the power had returned.
She did not face flooding at her Livingstone, New
Jersey, home, but the HASC is working in a big way
to help those in need, not Indians alone, and has
partnered with several other organizations, she said.
The partners include the Mata Amritanandamayi
Center, Council of Hindu Temples of North America,
Arsh Vidya Gurukulum, Chinmaya Mission,
Sevathon, Arya Samaj, Hindu Student Council,
Hindu Student Association, many college campuses,
and the Department of Homeland Security, among
“We don’t know how many Indians were affected by
the hurricane. But it is safe to say that around a thou-
sand people were affected badly,” said Bhargava, who
is not sure if FEMA will help the victims. “Twenty
percent of the Indian community lives under the
poverty line. It is important that they get timely help.”
Temples in the affected areas have come forward to
help the victims too. “America belongs to all of us and
it is our duty and right to serve and strengthen this
great country by offering the best of our traditions
and wisdom to solve today’s problems” she said.
The businesses on Oak Tree Road in Edison, New
Jersey, were not hit directly, said Bimal Joshi, execu-
tive vice president of the Oak Tree Indian Business
Association, but lost much business due to the hurri-
For Harry Anand, mayor of the coastal village of
Laurel Hollow, New York, the hurricane brought
“We had a number of fallen trees, road damage,
street flooding, beach erosion and power failures. It
has taken us a couple of days to access all the damage
and now we are cleaning things up,” Anand, the first
turbaned Sikh to become mayor in the state, said.
tide and the flooding was not as bad as expect-
ed. We had removed our computer servers
from the Village Hall to protect them in case of
The Village Hall was still out of power August
31. Anand had to order the shutdown of a part
of Laurel Hollow road after a tree fell on live
wires. He also had to order the cancellation of
court because there was no electricity.
Since Nassau County is not eligible for feder-
al funding, Laurel Hollow too will not get any-
thing. Anand said.
Though the hurricane affected North
Carolina badly, with six deaths, South Carolina,
where Nikki Haley is governor, was spared.
“We had taken all necessary precautions to
face the situation,” Rob Godfrey, a spokesper-
son for the governor said.
Vermont was among the worst affected
states. “Vermonters experienced unspeakable
devastation and loss from Irene, and are still
piecing things together to move forward.
Whole towns are still in isolation, people strug-
gling to get needed supplies and
medicine,” Representative Kesha Ram said. “It
is inspiring and heartening, however, to hear
all of the stories of people pulling together,
helping neighbors, rebuilding, and getting through this.
The people of this great state truly have an indomitable
JOSE LUIS MAGANA /REUTERS
A trailer sits on the beach at the North Beach campground after Hurricane Irene, Rodanthe, North
Carolina, August 29
“Our biggest concern before the hurricane was flooding
because we are a waterfront village and the Village Hall is
right on the beach. Fortunately, the storm hit during low
Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, India's Permanent Representative to the UN (front right), and UN
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon observe one minute of silence to mourn the bombing in Nigeria at the UN
Security Council in New York, August 26
JAY MANDAL/ON ASSIGNMENT
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