Casualties mount as western India reels under heavy rains

Church groups 'actively involved' in rescue operations that have left at least 150 people dead, thousands displaced
Casualties mount as western India reels under heavy rains

Rescue operations are carried out during floods in Gujarat. (Photo by IANS)

Church groups are struggling to help those affected by torrential rains and floods that have killed at least 150 people and displaced tens of thousands in the western Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The Gujarat government estimates more than 500,000 people in the state are affected with some 11,000 people displaced in Bansakantha district alone. Media reports said at least 123 people in the state have died and 50,000 others displaced. Gujarat's capital Gandhinagar, July 28, received 370 mm of rainfall in 24 hours.

Father Avinash Parmar of Ahmedabad Diocese based in Gujarat described the situation as "very bad" and said floodwater coming from northern part of the state and from neighboring Rajasthan had "worsened the situation."

Church groups were "actively involved" in rescue and relief operations to help affected people, said Father Thomas Madakkanal, a social work director of Rajkot Diocese in Gujarat.

"We are providing food and medical assistance. Church volunteers are also collaborating with the government in rescue and relief operations," he told ucanews.com.

"The floods are unprecedented and washed away the livelihoods of farmers, destroying their standing crop, livestock, houses, and virtually left them with nothing," Father Madakkanal said.

The church has already begun to contact donor agencies to support and rebuild the lives of flood victims as their rehabilitation is paramount, he said.

Many parts of neighboring Rajasthan state are also flooded and where 19 people have died, according to reports.

Father Jerish Anthony, the social work director of Ajmer Diocese in Rajasthan, told ucanews.com that hundreds of houses are under water in the state's drought-prone district of Barmer.

Rajasthan, known as India's desert state "hardly gets eight or nine showers a year and people were never prepared to face floods," he said. But there has been "unprecedented rains that has been continuing for five days," he said.

Father Anthony said the situation is "alarming" as there is no drainage or other facilities for outflow of  accumulated floodwater making it very difficult for villagers. 

According to media reports, at least 75,000 people are living in various shelters in flood-affected areas of Rajasthan.

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