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Flushing event raises money for tsunami victims

By Michael Morton

“We're already seeing an ebbing in the interest in the tsunami by the media,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who gave the keynote address at the event, held at the World's Fair Marina Restaurant and Banquet in Flushing.”They sensationalized the story,” added Atul Bhatara, whose family runs the restaurant and gave a discounted rental price for use of the space for the event. “For the people who survived this ordeal, the story has just begun.”In an effort to bring attention back to the catastrophe, the non-profit group Asian Women's Elite of Jamaica, which seeks to improve the lives of Asian immigrant families in Queens, organized the fund-raiser. While only 50 people attended the event because of frigid temperatures and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) cancelled appearance due to the weather, those who spoke gave impassioned pleas for help.”I think we should do something for helpless people,” said Sayeda Moin, president of Asian Women's Elite. Tickets for the event cost $100, or $150 for VIPs, with all proceeds sent to the International Red Cross.As a co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India, Crowley recently visited Sri Lanka, the tear-shaped island off the tip of India and was moved by what he saw.”We got to hear first-hand the stories of the people who survived and the horrifying nature of the tsunami,” he said. “The needs of the people in the region are going to be very large and looming for years to come.”City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who also spoke at the event, said there would be lingering problems with water supply interruptions, malaria outbreaks from standing pools breeding mosquitoes, damaged infrastructure and a lack of medical supplies. He urged the audience to get the public involved in rebuilding efforts. Bhatara's relatives come from northern India, but he said he has friends from his days at St. John's University who lost family members.”People have to start giving money again so they can build schools and libraries and practical things,” he said. “When things are out of the news, we tend to forget.” He urged people not to fall into the trap. “Give, give, give whatever you can and remember the cause at hand.”Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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