12/20/2005, 00.00
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A year after the Tsunami, survivors battle floods

by Nirmala Carvalho

The Archbishop, Mgr Augustine, said the latest tragedy is "worse than the Tsunami". The population is recovering little by little, supported by the Church.

Pondicherry (AsiaNews) – Along the coast of southern India, the anniversary of the Tsunami is marked by a tragedy "perhaps even greater" than the seaquake. For a month and a half now, fierce floods have struck the area of the diocese of Pondicherry-Cuddlore, Tamil Nadu. Here, the Catholic Church has managed to restore hope among survivors who are still struggling to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones.

The Archbishop, Mgr S. Michael Augustine, told AsiaNews about the situation in his diocese, one of those hardest hit by the monster wave which struck on 26 December, killing more than 10,000 people in India.

The Church has seen positive results in its aid work among Tsunami families, the archbishop said, adding however that "here tragedy seems to follow upon tragedy". "For the past one and a half months, torrential rains have been lashing Pondicherry, which have been worse than the tsunami." Mgr Augustine said that while the seaquake had afflicted only the coastline, the rains have affected "people all over [who] have been trapped in their own homes under metres of water. People have lost all their belongings; every household possession has been destroyed by the floods. Last month's rains have been the worst in 60 years."

The archbishop was positive about the outcome of material aid and pastoral work among Tsunami survivors in the diocese. "A few days ago, I met about 170 religious from different congregations of Pondicherry. They told me about their involvement to give these people psychological and material help." The bishop said the population is still coming to terms with its loss, "especially families who have lost children and the cases are many."

He talked then about the plight of orphans. "The first months were traumatic for the little ones, exposed to a constant stream of visitors: parents looking desperately for their lost children, volunteers and media caused a sense of anxiety in them". With time, as routine began to set in, "the children settled down in convents and orphanages where now they feel protected. Catholic sisters and religious have contributed to this sense of security."

In Pondicherry Diocese, the Church built 1,500 permanent houses on territory allocated by the local government. The archbishop said that for the anniversary of the Tsunami in Cuddlore – the village worst afflicted – the diocese has organized an inter-faith prayer meeting: Hindu and Muslim leaders will be present as well as government officials. Mgr Augustine will then bless a monument erected in memory of victims of the tragedy.

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See also
Parish priest in Phuket: "A tragedy, worst hit are the poor"
226,000 dead, missing in Indian Ocean tsunami
Missionaries: we help tsunami victims to start life anew
Religious and caste discrimination in government aid distribution in Tamil Nadu
After tsunami cynicism assails Christians, Muslims and Hindus


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