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Severe floods strike southwest

Sichuan Catholics predict hard winter for villagers after crops wiped out

Severe floods strike southwest
Flood waters submerge the street in front of a church in Quxian reporter, Quxian

September 23, 2011

A winter of hardship awaits millions of people in Sichuan province, including many Catholics, after freak rainstorms and flooding earlier this month wiped out their crops and damaged property.

Most rural families were unable to harvest their crops or take measures to protect their property and valuables when floodwater inundated their farms and homes, several Catholic farmers have said.

The flooding that hit parts of central, southwest and northwest China has left 90 dead and 22 missing, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Two weeks of continuous downpours caused extensive flooding and landslides in nine provinces forcing more than 1.6 million to evacuate their homes. Economic losses are estimated at 26.09 billion yuan (US$4.08 billion).

Nanchong diocese in the eastern part of Sichuan was badly hit by floodwaters when the Qujiang River burst its banks. The homes of more 1.3 million people in Quxian County alone, including 500 Catholics, were lost or damaged.

“The temperature at night is around 15 degrees Celsius, making life very uncomfortable for the homeless,” said a lay leader, who predicted rural families will endure a difficult winter as a result of destroyed crops and delayed harvests.

The 126-year-old Liduba Church in the county lost its 40-meter-long enclosing wall and a 27-meter-long retaining wall on September 18 due to floodwaters.

Contents inside the church and the priest’s residence were washed away by the torrents of water. Items that did survive after the water receded were damaged and covered in mud.

The local community had only just recovered from serious flooding that occurred last year.

Floodwaters several meters high also seriously damaged another Quxian church.

Father Chen Sihong, the parish priest, says the damage to the two churches will cost about 200,000 yuan to repair.

The Catholic-run Jinde Charities organization said they are closely monitoring the situation in various provinces and assessing what relief efforts it will make.

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