Officials from the Consulate General of India in San Francisco met Oct. 22 with Indian American victims of the Northern California wildfires to discuss recovery efforts.

“The fires have been devastating to our community,” a consular official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told India-West. “People have lost their homes and their identity documents,” he said, noting that at least 53 Indian American families in the region have reported to the consulate that their homes have been burned down.

“Exact numbers of Indian victims are difficult to determine,” he said, noting that many families impacted by the wildfires have not yet contacted the consulate.

In an earlier story, India-West reported that the town of Fountaingrove, which is comprised mostly of Indian American families, was severely hit by the fires, which have devastated the region for more than two weeks: entire neighborhoods in the small town were reduced to ashes.

“While the California government has been actively helping in recovery efforts, the consulate is helping by trying to expedite the re-issuance of documents such as passports and other identity documents without significant hardship to affected families,” said the consular official. “These are our humble efforts to help the victims of this tragedy.”

The San Francisco Indian Consulate has put into place an expedited procedure for re-issuance of Indian documents, including passports, OCI and PIO cards. Victims must first fill out the required form at the CKGS web site: for passports and for visas, PIO and OCI cards. They can then e-mail to notify the consulate that they need expedited processing. Normal processing time for a passport can take a minimum of seven days, but with expedited processing via the relief program, applicants could receive their passports within two to three days, explained the consular official.

Applicants can also call (415) 634-8480 for emergency applications.

Deputy Consul General Rohit Rathish and K. Venkata Ramana, Consul for community affairs, met with victims and members of the community at the Santa Rosa gurdwara and at the North Bay Hindu Temple. The consulate expressed its gratitude to Sukhi Chahal, chairman of the Punjab Foundation of Silicon Valley; and Gunasekaran Pathakkam, president of the Bay Area Tamil Manram, for organizing the meetings. “These two organizations are doing great outreach to help spread the word about how the consulate can help,” a consular official told India-West, noting that the consulate has reached out to other Indian American community organizations for outreach efforts.

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