06/26/2013, 00.00
INDIA
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Caritas India: serious situation in Uttarkhand could lead to cholera outbreak

Houses are still being swept away or buried in the mud as landslides continue under non-stop rains. "We have just completed the first round of interventions," said the project manager for Caritas Disaster Management, but "it is still too early to start rehabilitation programmes for victims". The Catholic Health Association of India is sending doctors, nurses and social workers to prevent the spread of diseases and outbreaks.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - "There is a lot of damage everywhere. Most of the houses have been wiped out and landslides continue. It is impossible to set up tents to house survivors. It will take at least another week and a half before the situation starts to improve," said Babita Alick, project manager for Disaster Management of Caritas India, as he spoke to AsiaNews about the situation in Uttarkhand, the northern state of India struck by a week by heavy floods.

The Indian Church and Caritas are at the forefront of disaster relief and assistance to victims alongside government and military personnel. At least a thousand people are known to have died, but the number of missing runs in the tens of thousands.

"As Caritas," Babita explained, "we have just completed the first round of interventions; the second is set to start soon. At present, we are still engaged in rescue operations, because it is still too early to start rehabilitation programmes for victims. It will take time before things can get back to normal."

Meanwhile, fears are growing of a possible cholera breakout. For days, the number of cases of dysentery, fever and vomiting due to the terrible conditions in which people live have been rising.

The rain makes rescue operations hard and many survivors are trapped in the mud, often injured, with little food, dirty water and close to corpses. For this reason, Caritas has called on the Catholic Health Association of India.

Contacted by AsiaNews, Fr Ousepparampil Sebastian, one of the organisation's directors, said, "We are forming a unit with emergency physicians, nurses and social workers in order to help volunteers already in place. We will implement preventive measures to try to contain the emergency. Between tonight and tomorrow morning, we shall know how to equip ourselves to reach the affected areas. The endless torrential rains are still causing landslides, making it very difficult to move around." (GM)

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