Their immediate relatives have been spared the tragedy.
But a kinship with those suffering from the Maharashtra earthquake -- which has killed at least 30,000 people since striking a rural area of India early Thursday morning -- led 13 Baltimore-area Indian organizations to begin planning a relief effort yesterday.
"As Indian-Americans, we'd like to do everything possible to help alleviate the destruction and appeal to the American people to join hands with us," said Lalit Gadhia, president of the Society of Technologists, Entrepreneurs and Professionals from India Inc.
The new group, which represents people from all parts of India, collected pledges totaling almost $2,000 yesterday from its members. Money also has been collected through Indian student associations at the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Loyola College.
"Each and every one of us is a professional who is donating his time to this effort," said Dr. S. .V. Ramamurthy, a member of the American Association of Physicians from India. "All the funds collected will go directly to the Indian Red Cross. There will be no administrative costs."
Money, rather than food and clothing, is most needed, group members said.
"Other international organizations will help [with supplies]," Mr. Gadhia said. "Also, the logistical problem would be enormous. If we crated and shipped those items, the expense would not justify the effort."
The group said it also is looking to help provide for the area's future.
"The government will level the areas," said Prem Bhatt. "We need to rebuild."
Mr. Gadhia said, "We need to help the survivors move on with their lives. Many families have lost their sole support; the only people they had to look to for emotional and material sustenance are gone.
"We need to help them rebuild their lives, which will take more than money."
Maharashtra residents had thought the area was safe from earthquakes, group members said. "This area hasn't been considered an earthquake zone for the last seven centuries," said Praful Vani. "This is the center area, a plateau, that was geologically stable land."
Unseasonably heavy rains and the area's population density have made the relief effort difficult, group members said.
"India has a population density 10 times that of the United States," Mr. Bhatt said. "As a result of the very crowded conditions, the impact is much greater.
Contributions to the relief effort may be sent to India Earthquake Relief Fund, c/o Ashok Kumta, 9 White Wood Court, Baltimore 21236, or dropped off at any branch of Signet Bank.