10/05/2009, 00.00
INDIA

Karnataka flood: Catholic churches and schools to shelter displaced residents

Nirmala Carvalho
Torrential rains in the northern districts of the Indian State kill more than 150 people, destroy at least 100,000 homes and displace millions. “We are doing our utmost to help everybody, irrespective of religion or caste,” said the bishop of the diocese of Bellary, one of the hardest hit areas.
Bangalore (AsiaNews) – At least 18 million residents of the State of Karnataka suffered damages to their homes and other property losses as a result of torrential rains that have fallen in recent days in the northern parts of the state and in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. One of the hardest hit districts is that of Bellary. The city’s bishop, Mgr Henry D’Souza, is personally directing the relief effort to help residents.

“I asked all our institutions to use churches and schools to house the displaced, provide them with food, medicines and emergency medical care,” he told AsiaNews. “In some areas we have opened shelters and I have asked our charities to do everything they can to bring relief.”  

Agricultural crops in these [12 northern] districts are completely destroyed. The road network and power installations are also badly damaged,” Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa said. “Relief and reconstruction operations need to be taken up on a massive scale considering the magnitude of the tragedy,” he added.

Early estimates by State authorities put the death toll at more than 150 and 100,000 houses destroyed.

Mgr D’Souza visited the diocese to determine the situation in person. “People are suffering immensely,” he said, “and the Church in Bellary is doing all it can.”

Rains have begun to let up and this has given residents some breathing space. Floodwaters have also started to recede.

“We have set up a crisis unit to coordinate rescue work. We are doing our utmost to help everybody, irrespective of religion or caste,” the bishop said. But “the poor are the hardest hit. Under normal circumstances, they are already tried by daily living. With this tragedy they lost even whatever meagre belongings they had.”

Damages in the diocese of Bellary are widespread. “There are several dead and many homes have been destroyed. Catholics alone lost almost 600. Many bridges have been swept away by the rain and roads are damaged,” the bishop said.  “The wounded run in the hundreds, most of them hurt when their homes caved in. Roofs were largely made of mud and did not hold up against the rain. Villages are covered in mud and fields are completely flooded.”

“I am deeply anguished by the suffering of our people, but we are strengthened by faith which is deeply rooted in our trust in God,” the bishop of Bellary said. “With the help and guidance of our Heavenly Father we are already at work helping the population and providing relief and rehabilitation to these suffering people.”

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