Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat – Despite the warnings issued by the Saudi Arabian Civil Defense, which called for Jeddah residents to stay in their homes and avoid any unnecessary journeys in light of the torrential rainfall that flooded parts of the city earlier this week, Saudi Arabian volunteers took to the streets of Jeddah to help those affected by the floods.
In the past those interested in volunteer work during such situations would contact volunteer organizations in order to avoid risks; however a huge number of volunteers who took to the streets over the past two days did so in a spontaneous manner in order to help those afflicted by the floods. These volunteers attempted to help those affected by the floods, providing them with shelter or returning them to their homes.
Reem Ahmed is one of the volunteers who attempted to help Jeddah residents affected by the flooding. She told Asharq Al-Awsat that whilst volunteers were unable to do provide Jeddah residents with as much help as they wanted to on Wednesday due to the difficulties they faced in reaching flood victims, they were still able to help many people who were trapped by the floods, relocating them to shelters, or providing them with food and water.
Ahmed also told Asharq Al-Awsat that female volunteers also took part in this effort, coordinating with relevant authorities, drawing up a database of those in need of help, and coordinating with the volunteers on the ground who were able to provide many of those in the affected areas with the help they needed.
Reem Ahmed spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about some of the difficulties faced by volunteers, such as communicating and coordinating with the Jeddah residents trapped in the affected areas of the city, physically reaching them, and coordinating with Saudi Civil Defense with regards to providing shelter to those residents forced from their homes.
She added “as for our attempts to provide all the food and health requirements [to those affected by the flooding], as well as milk for the children, this was by coordinating with companies that were able to provide assistance to volunteers to ensure that all of this reached those affected.”
Another volunteer, Amin Khafajah, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that volunteers were deployed throughout Jeddah, and that they were able to provide various forms of assistance and help, most importantly relocating the Jeddah residents living in the areas affected by flooding.
He added that many people were caught out by the torrential downpour and floods and were therefore unable to return to their homes. He said that many Jeddah residents sought refuse in public locations like the King Saud mosque, and various Jeddah hotels. Volunteers aided those who were trapped in central Jeddah to return to their homes, whilst also relocating residents forced from their homes to shelters.
However this sense of solidarity and camaraderie was not limited to the Saudi Civil Defense and the civilian volunteers, indeed many ordinary Jeddah residents helped each other through the floods. A student at Jeddah’s Capitals Institute for Health Sciences informed Asharq Al-Awsat that following the torrential downpour on Wednesday, “I telephoned my father to come and pick me up from the institute…he arrived after 3 hours and we left to go home.” However she reveals that “4 of my [female] friends were with me, and their guardians were unable to come to and pick them up due to the flooding and the difficulty of traveling, and so they spent the night at our house.”
Whilst Amani Bin Mahfouz sent an open message to all her friends via Blackberry messenger, inviting anybody unable to get home due to the flooding to seek shelter at her house. She told Asharq Al-Awsat “we opened our house to host those unable to return to their homes due to the floods.” She added that many of those she contacted were unable to reach her house by themselves, and that her brothers contacted and coordinated with them via mobile phone in order to help them reach safety.
As for the number of families hosted by her family, Amani said that they hosted 12 students [from the Capitals Institute for Health Sciences] as well as 2 families living in the nearby area.
Dr. Khadija Bahahdah, Dean of the Girls’ Campus at the King Abdulaziz University [KAU], said that 1,700 female university students and employees were provided with shelter in the Girls Campus. She said “we hosted [female] students and employees who were unable to return to their homes in the Girls Campus; we did our best to provide them with as much comfort as possible until the situation calmed down and some families came to pick up their daughters, either late at night or early the next day. Dr. Bahahdah added that “we also drove some students to their homes using the university bus service, returning them to their guardians.”