This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

UB efforts target disaster relief

Donations to aid tsunami survivors

Published: January 6, 2005

Reporter Editor

A UB staff member whose hometown in India was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami on Dec. 26 is collecting donations to help the survivors.


This graphic shows the epicenter of the Dec. 26 earthquake and the paths of the resulting tsunamis.

Sriram S. Vilayanoor, a project engineer with the Center for Industrial Effectiveness and a 2002 graduate of UB, is a native of the State of Tamil Nadu on India's southeast coast. He says more than half of the country's 7,000 tsunami-related deaths to date came from Tamil Nadu.

Vilayanoor's wife's family lives about 200 yards from the beach. Although water filled the street in front of the house, the dwelling was spared, he says. Members of his own family live further from the coast and also are safe. However, he worries about one of his friends, who remains missing.

Librarians offer Web site for tsunami info

UB librarians have put together a one-stop Web site to help the public keep abreast of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.

The Web site at http://ublib. links to up-to-date news on the situation from the United Nations, CNN, the BBC, The New York Times and Reuters, background information on the seismology of earthquakes and resulting tsunamis, and links to many reputable disaster-relief organizations currently working in the area affected by the disaster, including World Vision, the United Nations, Save the Children and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

It also offers hotline information numbers for each of the countries most seriously affected: India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and the Maldives, and links to sites carrying up-to-date information and maps about the disaster-relief efforts in each country.

Links to the U.S. Geological Services (USGS), the USGS National Earthquake Information Center, the Global Earthquake Report (the worldwide earthquake locater) and UB's Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research offer accurate data for those interested in the current geological status of the area and the state of its constructed environment.

"We want to offer the public a way to get fast, accurate information from a variety of national and international sources, and to facilitate the involvement of individuals in the relief efforts," says David Bertuca, associate librarian in the Arts and Sciences Libraries who helped design the site.

"This is what librarians do," he says.

"We're information specialists and we serve the public interest by making sure the most accurate information out there is available to everyone so they can educate themselves and make informed decisions about what to do with what they learn."

Vilayanoor says he sent a $200 check to a relief fund, but felt "I had to do something more than that." He considered gathering needed supplies to send to the survivors, but realized the logistics of doing that would make the task difficult, if not impossible. He called various organizations in India and determined that monetary donations to the Chief Minister's Public Relief Fund would be the best way to help.

"The money goes to the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for distribution by the government to the masses," Vilayanoor says. "I've received verbal promises (from fund administrators) that 100 percent of donations will go to the people who need it."

He says he emailed about 60 friends and acquaintances soliciting donations, and asked them to email others. Moreover, another 15 persons contacted him after seeing television news stories about his efforts. The goal, he says, was to "give everyone I know an opportunity to help."

He added that he was "pleasantly surprised" by the response, which so far has included a $500 donation from one of his clients.

Vilayanoor also hopes to join forces with others from the affected areas, including Sri Lanka and Indonesia, "to see what we can do collectively."

He calls UB's international students, faculty and staff "ambassadors from their own countries." The presence of international students, he says, is one of the things that makes UB "such an interesting place."

"For the first time, I realize what it means to say we're part of a bigger world," he says. "To see Americans contribute their hard-earned money (to relief funds) gives me a feeling of gratitude."

Anyone wishing to contribute to the Tamil Nadu relief fund can send checks, made payable to the Chief Minister's Public Relief Fund, to Vilayanoor at TCIE, 1576 Sweet Home Road, Suite 212, Amherst, N.Y., 14228. He will collect the checks and send them to India every Friday, noting that contributors will receive a receipt for their donations directly from the fund.

The Indonesian Student Association at UB also is collecting donations to benefit the Aceh province of Indonesia, which suffered the most casualties and damage from the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami.

"It's devastating for us to see what's happening in Aceh, so we're doing what we can do from across the miles," says Patricia Carlina, president of the Indonesian SA.

Carlina says she will send donations to an Indonesian group in Seattle, which is coordinating such efforts in the United States.

For further information, contact Carlina at