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'Like a warzone': Valley man describes conditions in India after returning to U.S.

Posted at 6:34 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-16 20:43:08-04

Surreal, a war zone and a country under siege by a virus. Those are just some words Sudhakar Gopal is using to describe what he witnessed in India, after a month-long trip there to visit his family.

The latest numbers show more than 265,000 COVID-19 deaths reported in the country to date.

Gopal was in the Indian city of Hyderabad to visit his elderly parents and make sure they had everything they needed as they quarantined themselves in their home. Gopal said the entire apartment building his parents live in had people afflicted with COVID.

RELATED: Arizona nonprofit helps raise $7M to send oxygen concentrators to India

Gopal showed ABC15 pictures of streets typically overcrowded with the daily hustle and bustle of life, now eerily quiet. He described people as being holed up in their homes, where even the everyday fruit and vegetable vendors once welcomed into homes with their fresh produce were now being asked to stay out.

It was not the India Gopal remembered visiting so often.

"Literally, this is probably, I can describe this as probably the worst month of my life. I've seen a lot of stuff and lived around the world. But this was literally like being in a movie, in one of those apocalyptic movies. These things were so surreal, that we would look at a movie and say, 'No, that's not going to happen to us.' It actually did," said Gopal.

Even the trip to India was an ordeal.

Gopal said all passengers had to wear both a mask and face shield while on the 11-hour long flight to New Delhi on British Airways. Those in middle seats had to wear gowns as well. The airports appeared to be deserted once they landed.

On the ground in Hyderabad, Gopal said he was happy to see his parents were fine, but other family members did not fare well.

"I had an entire family who, unfortunately, passed away because [of] COVID in the span of two days," said Gopal.

While driving around the city to run errands and take his parents to various doctors' appointments, Gopal described the chaos he witnessed.

"The ER doors are shut because there's just no capacity, there is no room to take anymore. There's a huge crowd in the parking lot. People are in ambulances and they're passing away in ambulances, they're passing away on the sidewalks because of lack of oxygen," said Gopal.

The need for oxygen is significant in India. Hospitals were literally begging their government agencies to provide more oxygen for patients who were suffering.

"Just two days ago, there was news in one of the hospitals, the oxygen supply was shut off for five minutes, literally five minutes. In that five minutes, 11 people passed away," said Gopal.

The international community had heard this cry for help. Oxygen supplies were coming in from all over the world, including right here in the Valley.

Mike Factor, the owner of Diamond Medical Equipment in Gilbert, had just shipped out 85 oxygen concentrators with tubing supplies to India.

"My hope of contributing these products is to find some relief in the suffering and to save lives in India," said Factor.

Factor said two local physicians had approached him, asking if he could send supplies to India. The doctors had connected him to an agency in India to ship the supplies to.

Gopal said while he was touched to see the outpouring of love and support from around the world, he feared they had not seen the worst in India yet, as they had not hit the peak of this pandemic.

"Every little bit helps, but we always have to ask ourselves what more we can do?" said Gopal.

If you'd like to contribute money to organizations that are shipping medical supplies, oxygen, and other items to help people impacted by COVID-19 in India, here is a list of organizations that are working directly with relief efforts on the ground.