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Hindus Respond to Hurricane Harvey: published in Hinduism Today

 Hindus Respond to Hurricane Harvey


Sewa International joins others of Houston’s 200,000-strong Indian community to help one another and their neighbors in the wake of unprecedented flooding


Heeding the urgent warnings, Gitesh Desai and his family—each carrying just a backpack—fled their Houston home as Hurricane Harvey flooded it with five feet of water on August 25, 2017. The family lost its precious collections of books and all the memorabilia on the first floor. Yet, when called at his hotel and asked how he was doing, he promptly responded, “This isn’t about me. There are many poor fellow Houstonians who need help from people like me. That is what I am trying to do through Sewa International.”

Gitesh is president of the Houston chapter of that relief and development organization. His normal role is to facilitate its responses to disasters overseas. Now he found his own family in the middle of the costliest natural disaster in recent American history and himself directing volunteer efforts from a local hotel room.

Texans knew they were in trouble when the weather forecasters started predicting rainfall in feet instead of inches. Rain from the slow-moving storm pounded Houston and other parts of Texas for a week. The area’s bayous—normally languid rivers meandering through the flatlands—burst their banks, drowning entire neighborhoods under several feet of water, affecting one in four Houston residents. An estimated 200,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in the state—50,000 of them in Houston. A million cars, abandoned to the floodwaters, were ruined. The Texas governor’s office estimated the economic damage at $180 billion and predicted rebuilding will take five years.


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