10/14/2014, 00.00
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Indian Bishops: after cyclone displaces 500,000 people, Church gets directly involved

Winds reaching 200 km/h devastate coastal areas in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. An early weather warning helps the authorities to evacuate residents, limiting death toll to 26. The bishops from the affected dioceses tell AsiaNews: "The most serious damage was caused by uprooted trees and collapsed houses. Pray for the victims and the many wounded."

Visakhapatnam (AsiaNews) - Over the past three days, cyclone Hudhud caused major damages, including uprooted trees, collapsed houses, broken power liens, and blocked roads, after slamming into the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha (Orissa).

Compared to previous years, the death toll is low (26 in total) thanks to the authorities' good efforts to inform residents. The weather warning enabled local governments to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people.

In Andhra Pradesh, the worst affected districts are in the Archdiocese of Visakhapatnam, particularly the port city with the same name.

"The most serious damages are not related to rain, which lasted only a day, but to the winds," Bishop Prakash Mallavarapu, told AsiaNews.

Winds "reached a speed of 200 km/h, uprooting trees, utility poles and more. In fact, most of the dead were killed in collapsed buildings. People from a lower middle class background suffered most losses because many lived in simple huts."

After raging for three days, "Hudhud has left entire districts without power," the prelate added. "Phone lines are down, as well as internet. Today some phones have begun to function. Rail and bus services have been suspended. Driving is still impossible, and until last night air traffic was blocked."

For now, people can count on government assistance, which, thanks to the timely information campaign, has allowed for the evacuation of 500,000 people. Thus, the number of dead in the state was kept low, 22 at present.

"As an institution our Church cannot do much," said Mgr Mallavarapu. "Our facilities were severely damaged, especially schools and hospitals. Our first goal is to restart schools to accommodate children as soon as possible."

After Visakhapatnam, the cyclone moved towards Odisha, slamming the districts of Gajapati, Koraput, Malkangiri and Rayagada.

Mgr Sarat Chandra Nayak, bishop of the Diocese of Berhampur (which includes those districts), told AsiaNews that "the worst damage is to homes and power lines, which are out of use in all districts. Some villages have not yet been reached, and we have not heard anything about their conditions. Four people are dead."

However, "the Catholic Relief Service (CRS) and Caritas are already working to help people, backing up government rescue workers," he said.

"Our prayers go out to those who are suffering, to the families of those who lost their life, and also to the many injured by Hudhud."

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