India

Flash floods, landslides kill 24 in southern India

Church people are appealing for help to support thousands of families rendered homeless in Kerala

UCA News reporter

Updated: October 18, 2021 12:01 PM GMT

Rescue workers push an overturned vehicle stuck in mud and debris at a site of a landslide caused by heavy rain in Kokkayar in India's Kerala state on Oct. 17. (Photo by AFP)

Flash floods and landslides caused by torrential rain have wreaked havoc in the hilly areas of southern India's Kerala state, where at least 24 people have been killed in the past two days.

Most incidents are reported from eastern areas of Kottayam district, a Christian stronghold where authorities continue searches for several people reported missing or suspected buried under mud.

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We are facing an unprecedented situation where hundreds of people have lost everything barring the clothes on their bodies, said Father Kizhakel, social work director of Pala Diocese in Kottayam district where devastating damage has been reported.

We are collecting food, clothes and life-saving drugs for the homeless people, who have been moved to relief camps, Father Kizhakel told UCA News on Oct. 18.

Torrential rain has battered Kerala, particularly hilly areas of Kottayam and Idukki districts, since Oct. 16, causing landslides that washed away homes and trees. The disaster has disrupted traffic, electricity and communication facilities.

The government's official records show that 24 people have lost their lives, including five children. The toll may increase as rescue workers continue searching for missing people.

It is a very difficult time — we need to come together to help all those in distress

Thousands are staying in camps set up by the government. Private agencies, including the Catholic Church, are providing food and other relief articles.

Video footage on social media shows several homes being washed away.

We have no idea of the exact number of houses swept away and other losses including human lives, Father Kizhakel said.

Now, with the intensity of the rain reduced, rescue teams are moving into affected areas and trying to provide succor to the affected persons.

The priest appealed to people for their support. It is a very difficult time — we need to come together to help all those in distress.

Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt of Pala and Bishop Jose Pulickal of Kanjirapally visited some of the affected areas and assured the Church's support to affected people.

Bishop Kallarangatt also took a special medical team from the diocese-run Mar Sleeva Medicity hospital to provide immediate medical care to victims.

I have not witnessed such a flood in my entire life, said Rosakutty Kurian, a 70-year old housewife whose house has been partially flooded.

It is sad that many people have died due to the heavy rains and landslides in Kerala. My condolences to the bereaved families

She said her area was not affected even by the great flood of 2018, which was reported to be the worst in a century.  It killed some 400 people and washed away the life savings of millions.

The government has deployed teams of the National Disaster Response Force to six more districts apart from Kerala's two badly hit districts following warnings from the weather department.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences for the loss of lives in Kerala.

It is sad that many people have died due to the heavy rains and landslides in Kerala. My condolences to the bereaved families, he tweeted.

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