Asians with Australia's bushfire victims

Mitali Maheshwari and Priyanka Mehta Wednesday 08th January 2020 05:40 EST

The ongoing bushfires in Australia have burnt over five million hectares of land in the last few weeks and Asians across the world have shown solidarity with the victims who have been at the receiving end of the wreckage and evacuation procedures. The rescue effort which now involves the Australian navy, has destroyed over 1,200 homes since September, killing over 20 people and half a billion animals, including about a third of the state’s koala bears.

Amidst this climate catastrophe an Indian couple in the country have started providing fresh meals from their restaurant to those affected by the disaster. Kamaljeet Kaur and her husband Kanwaljeet Singh, owners of the Desi Grill restaurant in Bairnsdale in Victoria have been preparing simple meals of curry and rice for the victims for the last five days as the bushfire crisis in the country worsened.

"We are providing proper meals of curry and rice. We distribute the food at the relief centres as well as give to those who come to our restaurant asking for it. The situation is really bad. Initially there was less fire in the area but later it expanded. People have lost their lives, houses, farms and animals," Ms Kaur said. Victoria is one of the worst affected areas in the disaster. Other areas include New South Wales and South Australia.

Kaur further highlighted that people had left their houses and were either shifting to relief camps or moving to Melbourne. The couple, who migrated to Australia over a decade ago, was earlier providing raw materials to Sikh volunteers in the area to prepare food for the affected but later started preparing it in their restaurant. Even the shortage of staff in their restaurant has not deterred them from helping those in need as they have roped in friends and family to prepare food for the victims as well as manage business hours of the restaurant.

"Most of the staff members have left due to the disaster. My family and friends are working in the restaurant," said Ms Kaur, who along with her husband started the restaurant in Bairnsdale in 2016. She said that the loss in the area felt like "personal as we have lived here for seven years before moving to Melbourne."

In the meantime, the Guru Nanak Gurudwara Turramurra Sikh Temple on Turramurra’s Kissing Point Road kindly offered free food and water to Hornsby firefighters after they had worked hard to control fires in the nearby region. The gurudwara has also said it is open for all those affected by the fires and in need shelter or food.

“As the firefighting operations were drawing to a close at the Canoon RpadFire in South Turramurra, we were approached by members of the local Sikh community with donations of hot food for our firefighters.

“They brought along two types of curry and water, and other residents also brought out water, juice and soft drinks,” said Captain Theo Klich in a statement to SBS News.

In a similar show of strength to the loacl Yanchep community, BAPS volunteers assisted the relief efforts by serving over 1,000 hot vegetarian meals to the fire fighters and supporting volunteers. BAPS volunteers prepared the meals and packed them in takeaway containers to serve to the frontline teams. The Yanchep community is part of the city of Wanneroo where the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir is situated. Emergency services personnel from the Fire and Emergency Service (DFES), Department of Parks and Wildlife, and State Emergency Service and Salvation Army Emergency Service (SAES) bravely endeavored to control the bushfires that raged through thousands of hectares of the Yanchep National Park and surrounding areas north of Perth. The fires came dangerously close to residential areas with residents being evacuated for their safety.

Another such volunteer is Sukhwinder Kaur who was planning her first trip back to India in ten years, to see her elder sister who is in a coma after suffering a stroke. But she says her bigger family here also needs her at a time when their homes are burning. In just seven days since the New Year’s Eve, 35-year-old Sukhwinder Kaur has cooked thousands of meals for bushfire victims of East Gippsland.

Now, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has now called up 3,000 military reserve troops to combat the raging bushfire crisis which is expected to worsen over the following days. Australia does, indeed, routinely suffer bushfires, with 173 people dying in the “Black Saturday” fires of Victoria in 2009. The unprecedented length and severity of these ones, however, are the result of both the worst spring drought on record and the highest summer temperatures ever recorded. However, it is difficult to map a direct link between the burning of fossil fuels and any particular disaster. This incident illustrates that perhaps, it is now time that politicians and policy makers woke up to the “climate crises” instead of trolling Greta Thunberg of suffering from Asperger's syndrome.

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