COVID-19 infection fear among flood victims in relief camps

Hyderabad: With Hyderabad limping back to normalcy after witnessing devastating floods and torrential rains, the focus of the state government is now on taking care of the three lakh plus affected families. Over 3,000 people are currently staying in relief camps, and many living in relief camps are now afraid that they may get infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which is still infecting at least 1,500 people a day

The news that about 90 positive COVID-19 cases were detected from flood relief camps (earlier) in Hyderabad has set in panic among affected families who are living in such camps. 

According to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), over 20,540 homes in over 121 localities were inundated over the past one week, after which, as part of its flood relief initiative, the GHMC set up 61 relief camps.

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A visit to one such camp in Moosarambagh showed that  several people, who are being provided with temporary shelter there, are barely able to mantain distance from each other due to the scores of people who were brought to the camp.

“What if my children get infected with COVID-19?” questioned Mohammed Jabir (58), a resident of Saroor Nagar. This was the fear ringing through many minds at at the Moosarambagh relief camp. The state’s Medical department also claims that it has so far provided 30,367 with medicines and 2795 sanitizers. However, people at the Moosarambagh camp belied the government’s claim. 

Syeda Shireen, another flood victim, who was at that camp along with her three sons and two daughters, were evacuated from the Chandrayangutta area after their house had collapsed in floods. “No one has provided us with masks or sanitizers, nor was any safety equipment given to protect ourselves from COVID-19,” she alleged.

Similarly, after learning that 90 people got infected with COVID in relief camps, Abdul Wahab’s family returned back to their house in Hafeez Baba Nagar, part of which literally got submerged due to heavy rains. “We can manage water-logging issues at home by clearing it or washing our house, but the coronavirus infection is something we cannot afford to risk,” he told this reporter on Wednesday.

Wahab in fact stated that even the the local area MLA and corporators who visited relief camps earlier had not taken any COVID-19 prevention measures like wearing face masks. 

Over the last past week, due to heavy rains on October 13 and 17 floods hit several parts of Hyderabad such as Saroon Nagar, Gaganpahad, Malakpet, Chandrayangutta, Falaknuma, Kukatpally, and Tolichowki. Heavy inflows of water from nearby nalas (sewers) and lakes overflowed and as a result destroyed homes. 

On its part, the state government earlier this week announced that flood-affected residents will get Rs.10,000 as immediate relief, while others whose homes were destroyed will be compensated as well with higher amounts. Residents of places like Hafeez Baba Nagar,  Al Jubail colony, and Nadeem colony however pointed out that Rs. 10,000 will not be sufficient for anything. 

“We can’t even reconstruct the walls of our house with the Rs.10,000 the government is giving,” said Jaweed Shah, a resident of Falaknuma. Social activist Osman Mohammed Khan said.  

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