Free Press Journal

Kerala Floods: After seeing damaged houses, return home can be traumatic

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(Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN / AFP)

Mumbai: A relief camp is not just a temporary refuge but also insulates the displaced from the extent of devastation around them. But as they return to their homes (with the joy that they are alive), they are hit hard by the ground reality — the fact that a second life means building everything from the scratch.

A doctor, based in a relief camp housing 5,000 people, said, “As long as people are in camps, they will not feel the trauma. The minute they return to their lives and their ruined homes, there will be some level of post-trauma depression.”Sarang Donarkar, who is heading the team of Mumbai doctors that has gone to Kerala and is Chief of MARD, said, “We witnessed some people opening their closed shops. They were pained to see the losses incurred by them. They knew that they have lost their belongings but when they see the loss in person, it strikes them. There is some level of psychological trauma among people affected by the flood, but no one has come forward to talk about it. No such post-traumatic stress or depression cases have been reported as yet,” said Donarkar. At present, people are coming forward with cases of fever and skin infections. The mother-in-law of a 35-year-old woman told Donarkar, “We have lost everything. We were on the terrace for two days and had to be air-lifted. But after the flood water receded, we returned to our homes and then the stark reality struck us — that we have lost so much.”

Donarkar explained that lady was in shock, and it was evident. “She was not responding to questions that were asked, but giving random replies. Then, she goes on to say, I am thinking about the losses that my family incurred.” Donarkar went on to talk about a Maharashtrian who moved to Kerala for work. “He was shocked after he returned to his murky, shattered home.” Another doctor treating patients in Kochi shared that there was a 51-year-old woman who was going to undergo a retinal operation and she lost Rs 52,000 that she had saved for the surgery. “She said she will try saving that money again. But, first, I need to rebuild my home.”