By Robin Gomes
As flooding and landslides continue to cause havoc in southern India state of Kerala, Catholic Church officials are working overtime to rehabilitate the affected people, mostly village farmers who have been displaced or have lost their homes and crops.
Torrential monsoon rains since August 7 have killed at least 29 people in flooding, landslides and house collapses in Kerala with more than 53,000 people taking shelter in state-run relief camps.
Government agencies and voluntary groups are rushing to the affected areas. Army, navy and air force personnel were called in to help police and residents manage the disaster in the worst-affected six districts in the central and northern hilly areas of the southern state.
Shibu, a relief official told UCANEWS on Friday that nearly 200 army soldiers joined rescue workers in the worst-hit Ayannkulu, Idukki and Wayanad areas.
Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese apostolic administrator Bishop Jacob Manathodath has appealed to church authorities under the diocese to open church schools and other institutions to the displaced people, and distribute food, clothes and other relief materials.
24 dams opened on one single day
As rain continued to lash the state, officials opened the sluice gates of 24 dams on Aug. 9, including the biggest Idukki Dam, threatening more areas with floods.
"It is a very alarming situation," said state chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, adding that it was the first time that the flood gates of so many dams had been opened on a single day.
"The opening of the dams has caused anxiety among people living on the banks of the Periyar River. The Church should do everything possible to alleviate their hardship," Bishop Manathodath said.
Reports say that all five gates of Idukki were opened on Friday as the heavy downpour continued unabated.
Father Jose Plachikkal, spokesman for the worst-affected Idukki Diocese, said Church people have joined local authorities in accommodating people displaced by floods, landslides and the opening of the dams.
Father Abhilash Chirambikkunnel, an official of Thamaraserry Diocese, said officials were providing schools and other church institutions to accommodate people in Kozhikode and Wayanad districts.
During the monsoon season, which runs from June to September, rains kill hundreds of people every year in India. The south-west monsoon has been very heavy over Kerala in the past few days..
The situation is likely to worsen over the coming two days, according to K. Santhosh, Kerala director of the Indian Meteorological Department.
India's home minister Rajnath Singh, who is in touch with Vijayan plans to visit the flood affected areas of the state on August 12. (Source: UCANEWS)