Rescue operations underway, while the state authorities lag "out of negligence". A meeting with the governor to define short and long-term support programs. There are no precise numbers of displaced people "because the devastation is unprecedented".
Trivandrum (AsiaNews) - In Kerala "people cry and despair. They lost everything they owned. The situation is dramatic. The population is waiting for the missing fishermen and hopes that they can somehow return home "says Msgr. Maria Calist Soosa Pakiam, Archbishop of Trivandrum.
He is speaking to AsiaNews about the devastating effects of Cyclone Ockhi which hit the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in the southern part of India and complains of "negligence" on the part of the authorities. Yesterday he met the governor of Kerala, who asked to bring help as soon as possible. "We have compiled a list of short and long-term initiatives. We must find the resources to face this emergency ", he adds with a heartfelt concern.
Last November 29 and 30, strong gusts of wind hit the southern coast of the country. The moment the cyclone arrived, reports Msgr. Pakiam, "more than 2 thousand fishermen were engaged in offshore fishing trips". According to the most up-to-date figures, "the disaster caused 86 victims in the district of Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) and another 38 in the district of Trivandrum (Kerala). Fishing equipment worth billions of rupees has been destroyed and many houses demolished. About 100 families have found refuge in rehabilitation centers run by the Church ". "Unfortunately, we do not have precise numbers of those camped in makeshift centers, because what happened is unprecedented".
Given the extent of the devastation, the archdiocese "has immediately activated priests and parishes pastoral councils to distribute material for first aid, food and drink. He created a group to visit the worst hit villages and ascertain the severity of the damage. We have also raised money from all the parishes and various civil society associations ".
The archbishop denounces "the failure of local and central governments, which did not issue warnings, despite the fact that the weather conditions were clear. Even the rescue operations started with considerable delay ". "The fishermen themselves - he laments - ventured back to the sea in search of missing companions. They brought at least 40 boats into port, despite the dwindling hopes of finding some of the survivors still alive. "
To deal with all this, in the meeting with the governor, he suggested the adoption of two programs, both short and long term. "For short-term actions - he says - we want to provide medical assistance to the injured and those who are hospitalized; therapeutic counseling for widows and children; emotional support for people recovered alive from the waters of the sea, who are suffering from fear and trauma. We must also distribute food and first aid material in refugee camps, be a constant presence and regularly visit families affected by the emergency, taking care of children who have lost one of their parents ".
For long-term initiatives, continues the archbishop, "we propose the purchase of land; housing projects; the rehabilitation of displaced persons; providing education to children who are orphaned; help widows find work; educating fishermen on the use of GPS systems at sea and other security measures during navigation; procure equipment to those who have lost boats and nets".
The archdiocese organized a protest march in support of the fishermen on 11 December to request that the cyclone be classified as a "natural disaster", and a day of prayer the day before "to remember the souls of the dead, in hope for a safe return home of the missing. It consoles us very much that the Holy Father Pope Francis remembered us in his prayers".
Msgr. Pakiam laments: "The fishermen who live in this area are very poor. Therefore they are continuously ignored by the authorities. The failure of the organizational machine in decreeing the alert, as well as that of the recovery operations, show the discriminatory attitude of the officials. If those who went missing at sea had been rich, the authorities would have acted differently. It is sad to note that the life of these fishermen is worth so little for such people". Finally he reports that he has received "the promise from the government that we will receive all the help possible, both for the victims and for the injured. We ask all men of good will to join us".