‘We feel so helpless’: Central Texans grieve for family members in India amid COVID-19 surge


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Planes filled with medical supplies are on their way to India as front line workers there fight an intense surge of Covid-19 infections.

The planes left Travis Air Force Base in northern California Friday carrying oxygen cylinders and regulators, N-95 masks and testing kits. These are all supplies that are in critically short supply in India.

The recent surge in cases is being felt by Central Texans who call India home.

Nine thousand miles from India, at the corner of East 7th Street in Austin is Nasha. You can feel the vibrant Indian culture in every corner of the restaurant. But what you don’t see is the collective grief for their families back home.

“He survived for like two days when we found out he was COVID positive, but the third day, because of the shortage [hospital beds and oxygen], we couldn’t help him,” explained Abhishek Kumar.

Courtesy: Abhishek Kumar

Kumar is talking about his grandfather, who died this week. Others in his family have been impacted by the virus. Kumar has no family in Austin and can’t travel back home because conditions are worsening.

Anusuia Mangaonkar was planning a trip back to India in May. As cases surge, she doesn’t know when she’ll be able to get home.

Courtesy: Anusuia Mangaonkar

“We feel so helpless that we cannot go there and help them at all,” Mangaonkar said.

According to NBC News, India has reported more than 18 million cases since the start of the pandemic, second only to the United States. The death toll has surpassed 208,000. One of those cases was her friend of nearly 50 years.

“March 2020 I was in India and I was with him and then June 26th he was no longer in my life,” Mangaonkar said.

The emotions are still raw. And now, all they can do is pray as uncertainty looms with this second wave.

Austin resident Ritu-Khanna Kavita Tewari and four others have organized a fundraiser to “Help India Breathe: Oxygen Donation Drive.” They said they started the initiative after personally hitting rock bottom with their friends and families not able to find oxygen in India. They say the situation is so bad that people are laying down on the streets outside the hospitals in hopes they will receive medical aid.

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