MONSOON floods in the south of India have forced more than one million people to flee to relief camps.
Heavy rains in the south-western state of Kerala, which began in June, have left at least 410 people dead, it was reported this week. About 50,000 houses have been destroyed by floods, as the water drains and reveals the level of destruction. The floods are believed to be the worst for a century.
Thousands of military personnel were deployed by the Indian government to help the areas that had been badly affected by the monsoons; helicopters dropped supplies before the waters began to recede.
The Church of South India is active in relief work, and has urged all Christian charities and organisations to help. World Vision, Christian Aid, USPG, and CAFOD have all launched appeals and emergency efforts.
Christian Aid is seeking to assist those who have been left without safe drinking water and hygiene essentials, as well as providing shelter materials.
The charity’s emergency programme manager, Shivani Rana, who is in Kerala, said: “Many people are currently sheltering in camps, and one major worry is how they’re going to recover their lives when they try to go home. For some families, everything they had has been washed away or ruined.”
She continued: “The rains have caused flooding and also landslides — and we still don’t know how bad the damage is because many areas remain impossible to reach.”
World Vision India’s national director, Cherian Thomas, said on Monday: “Over 32 million people — approximately half of them children — have been affected overall, and, with the threat of further rains looming, we’re concerned for children and their families still at risk of disaster.
“Disease outbreak could become a huge problem, and children are most likely to bear the brunt of the crisis. Lives are hanging in the balance — these children can’t wait. They need life-saving help, now.”
The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, offered prayers for those affected. He said: “Our hearts go out to people living in terrible fear in what has become a precarious situation.
“Local churches have become especially important in bringing hope to remote villages cut off by flooding that has destroyed roads and bridges.
“We also hear reports of damage to churches and relief centres, and we pray for those trying to respond even while coping with their own losses.”
CAFOD’s head of Humanitarian Programmes for Asia, Giovanna Reda, said on Monday: “Unprecedented monsoon rains in Kerala have washed away whole villages and left communities homeless. Crops and livestock have been destroyed. Many families arrive at relief camps with only the clothes they are wearing. They have lost everything.
“Even for those humanitarian aid agencies on the frontline, like Caritas India, providing emergency aid is challenging — many are cut off not just by flood waters but lack of power and limited availability of mobile networks.”