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Church groups active as floods claim more lives

6:44 PM, August 13, 2019

India(Kerala):Southern state of Kerala again worst hit after being battered by unprecedented floods last year.

An aerial view of flood-hit Kerala’s Thrissur district on Aug. 11. About 250,000 people have been displaced in Kerala and are living in 1,600 relief camps that include church-run schools, hostels and even churches. (IANS photo)

Church agencies have joined relief efforts in India, where some 200 people have died in floods and landslides following incessant rain.

Torrential rain since early August has filled up dams, forcing authorities to release water to already brimming rivers and causing floodwater to rush into residential areas in southern and western states including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Kerala, where unprecedented rain and floods killed 480 people last August, is the worst-hit this year too. At least 70 have died in the state, where heavy rain in hilly northern areas from Aug. 9-11 caused several landslides.

About 250,000 people have been displaced in Kerala and are living in 1,600 relief camps that include church-run schools, hostels and even churches.

“We have opened all our institutions to accommodate needy people in temporary and safe accommodation,” said Father George Vettikattil, who heads the Kerala Social Service Forum that coordinates charity efforts of all 32 Catholic dioceses in the state.

Church agencies are accommodating about 45,000 people in 300 church institutions being used as relief camps, he said.

Some 50 deaths were reported from one landslide in Kavalappara village in Malappuram district on Aug. 8 when about 30 of its 70 houses were buried under mud.

Another landslide in Puthumala, a village of mostly tea estate workers in Wayanad district, killed 11, while seven people are missing.

Father Manoj Kakkonal, who directs a community radio service in the district covered by Manathavady Diocese, told on Aug. 12 that the search for bodies is continuing in Puthumala.

“The huge amount of mud, boulders and debris from houses, and the continuing rain, made it difficult in the initial days,” the priest said.

The rain has subsided since Aug. 11 and police and army rescue teams have joined local people in the operation, he said.

Father Kakkonal said diocesan volunteers are “busy going to people stranded in their homes and offering them food and other basic necessities.”

His radio station is transmitting information around the clock to inform people about the rain, relief camps near them and ways to contact volunteers for help.

“We have received panic calls from people and informed government authorities to rescue those who need immediate attention. We also sent out volunteers to help the needy within our limit,” Father Kakkonal said.

“The diocese has also instructed all parishes to make available their generators to charge people's cellphones so that they can contact their relatives.”

Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop and head of the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church, has asked all dioceses to open their facilities to the needy.

Father Jose Plachickal, vicar general of Idukki Diocese, said most people in hilly areas fear further landslides.

Source: UCAN

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