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Long Islanders from Indian state raising money for flood-ravaged area

Long Islanders from the Indian state of Kerala are sending money to the flood-ravaged area, many clutching their smartphones for the latest news.

For roughly two weeks monsoon rains have displaced hundreds of thousands and killed more than 350 people, according to news reports.  Local South Indians’ social media feeds have been saturated with photos of crumbling, muddy homes, survivors struggling to find dry land and videos of torrential waters and mudslides laying waste to their families’ towns.

“It’s heartbreaking to watch,” said Boby Varghese, 42, a registered nurse from Smithtown outside the Maharaja Farmers Market in Hicksville Sunday. “We  heard a lot of people are trapped but rescue people can’t get there,” she said.

Varghese and her husband Joe, an IT analyst, who both come from the affected area, said they’ve kept up with events and relatives via WhatsApp, Facebook and Kerala television available through satellite television and YouTube.

“We are extremely worried,” Joe Varghese said, who said he thought the United Nations should step in to aid an Indian government that seems overwhelmed and in need off international help.

The Vargheses donated money both through their church and through a website set up by the Indian government.

Pastor John Melepuram of St. Mary's Syro Malabar Catholic Church in Old Bethpage, which offers services in English and Malayalam, the native language of Kerala, said the church hopes to raise $10,000 to aid survivors of the flooding.

“Most of the people [in the congregation] didn’t lose any family members but they lost their belongings,” Melepuram said.

Melepuram said some Long Island parishioners are stranded in Kerala. They took summer vacations to visit family but are now unable to leave because the floods shut down the international airport.

As the floodwaters recede, the hard task of rebuilding is about to begin in a country that doesn’t have much infrastructure or insurance to deal with disasters like Long Island did after Superstorm Sandy, he said.

“It’s tough to rebuild,” Melepuram said. “Whatever is lost, is lost.”

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