11/17/2018, 08.18
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Cyclone Gaja hits Tamil Nadu hard: bishops bemoan the latest natural disaster

The districts of Nagapattinam and Vedaranniyam were the most affected areas. The Basilica of Our Lady of Health in Vailankanni, the largest Marian shrine in India, also sustained damages. Local and church authorities are bringing relief to thousands of displaced people.

Chennai (AsiaNews) – India’s Catholic bishops bemoan that "once again a severe calamity has struck our people”. The area devastated yesterday by cyclone Gaja is in the country’s south-east coast, most notably the State of Tamil Nadu and, to a lesser extent the territory of Pondicherry.

The destruction caused by extremely strong winds and rains includes 23 people who lost their lives (a figure that is likely to rise) with more than 80,000 displaced.

“The natural disaster took its toll despite the preventive measures taken by the Government of Tamil Nadu and the Church,” said Mgr Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), who signed the statement.

Thus, a few months after floods devastated the State of Kerala, India is affected by another extreme weather event.

The most affected areas are the districts of Nagapattinam and Vedaranniyam where the cyclone caused landslides, uprooted trees and blew away the roofs of homes. The communications and power infrastructure were also heavily damaged.

Winds also caused extensive damages to India’s top Marian shrine, the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health at Vailankanni. “The ferocious winds have taken off the cross from the tower of the ancient Church and have also severely damaged the statue of Jesus near the Morning Star Church,” Mgr Mascarenhas said.

The government announced helpline numbers 1070 (state-level) and 1077 (districts). Various rescue teams are helping the displaced move to more than 470 relief centres in six districts. Fishermen were also warned to stay away from the sea.

Church personnel and organisations are also helping the affected people. Caritas India is assessing the damage and will begin immediate relief intervention as soon as possible.

Mgr Mascarenhas ended his statement, saying that “The Catholic Church stands in solidarity with all people suffering from this calamity and desires to help all people irrespective of their religion, community or provenience.”

Also, “We pray for the repose of the departed people and even as we offer our condolences to the affected families, we assure them of our support and comfort."

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