Catholic agencies continue to assist victims of Kerala floods

A landslide in Kerala, Aug. 18, 2018. Photo courtesy of the St Vincent de Paul Society of England and Wales.
A landslide in Kerala, Aug. 18, 2018. Photo courtesy of the St Vincent de Paul Society of England and Wales.

.- As flood waters in India's southwestern state of Kerala recede, Catholic aid agencies are helping provide aid materials to those affected by the disaster.

“The SVP in India has been extremely busy working with local fisherman to help rescue people trapped in flooded homes. SVP volunteers are collecting and coordinating the distribution of aid materials, using resources available from British donations together with their own money to buy vital goods,” Johnson Varghese, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in India, said Aug. 28.

“We desperately need donations as the rescue effort goes on. As people move back to their damaged homes, we’ll be using funds to help rebuild their houses, purchase household utensils, school materials such as uniforms, books, and even livestock to replace lost farm animals.”

Severe rains led to flash floods and landslides in Kerala, with some 400 people killed and more than 1 million displaced from their homes.

Those now returning to their flooded homes are encountering snakes and insects, contaminated water, and ruined crops.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society is raising and distributing funds for the displaced, and purchasing for them food, clothing, and livestock.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay wrote to the people of his diocese Aug. 18 to “make a fervent appeal to all our churches, convents and other institutions to join in the relief efforts.”

“First of all, by prayer for the victims, their families and the rescue teams,” he suggested. “We could add this intention in the Prayer of the Faithful at Mass. We also urgently need financial assistance to continue and extend our relief efforts being coordinated by Caritas India.”

The cardinal said that his local Church, located in Maharashtra state, “cannot stay silent, while our brothers and sisters are going through harrowing times in Kerala.”

“Caritas India, the Catholic Church's social arm, has already placed teams in different parts of Kerala to assist and coordinate relief operations,” said Cardinal Gracias.

Catholic Relief Services has provided water purifying tablets for clean drinking water, buckets for safe water storage, hygiene items, such as soap and sanitary napkins, and shelter kits that include tarps and blankets, to more than 2,000 families in Kerala's Wayanad district.

Earlier in August, India's bishops issued a statement expressing their support for the relief efforts and offering their prayers for all those affected by the floods.

“We pray for all those affected and also for all who are actively or through contributions helping the people in dire distress,” they said.

While they noted several Catholic relief efforts already underway, they also expressed their “ardent desire to work with the Government and all like-minded agencies to provide relief and help in all possible ways to the suffering people.”