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UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
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India

Church people relieved to be spared by Cyclone Nisarga

The storm, feared to be the most devastating in several decades in western India, caused no significant damage

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Church people relieved to be spared by Cyclone Nisarga

A truck is seen off the road near uprooted trees on a main road in Alibaug town of Maharashtra's Raigad district on June 3 following Cyclone Nisarga's landfall on India's western coast. (Photo: STR/AFP)

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Church leaders on the western coast of India breathed a sigh of relief after Cyclone Nisarga swept through their region without causing severe damage as they praised the administration's preparedness.

The post-cyclone assessment shows that damage was not as significant as expected, said Archbishop Felix Antony Machado of Vasai, whose diocese covers the area where the cyclone made landfall on June 3.

The region experienced heavy rain and winds of 120 kilometers per hour when the cyclone made landfall at Alibaug, near Mumbai, India's economic hub and Maharashtra's state capital.

It uprooted hundreds of trees but killed only four people. The wind blew away the rooftops of many weak houses and damaged mud houses, but the state's preparedness and people's cooperation helped save lives, the archbishop said.

"We are now saved from the cyclone's fury as people living in low-lying areas moved to safety," said Archbishop Machado.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the determination of the people and officials helped in "mitigating the intensity" of the cyclone. The cyclone threat "hovered over the state amidst the Covid-19 crisis," he said.

After assessing the post-cyclone situation in his diocese, Archbishop Machado told UCA News on June 4 that "we are lucky that the magnitude of the damage is not as feared."

"We prayed to God for his mercy to save us from the cyclone as we have already been under tremendous pressure to deal with the novel coronavirus outbreak in the state," he said.

Maharashtra is the worst-affected Indian state for the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.

"God heard our prayer and weakened the cyclone so much that now we can say we are safe as we escaped from the catastrophe without much damage, " the prelate said.

Some areas that come under neighboring Mumbai Archdiocese suffered some damage, but no loss of lives was reported from the city area.

"Our people are safe," said Father Nigel Barrett, the spokesperson of Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Mumbai.

"Obviously, people suffered in the wind and heavy rain and flooding in some areas," Father Barrett told UCA News on June 4.

"One of the parishes in Raigad district was opened to accommodate people living in unsafe houses during the cyclone," the priest said, adding that they left after the storm had passed.

The archdiocese was prepared to help needy people following instructions from the cardinal, he said.

"We thank God for protecting the state from the wrath of the cyclone" amid the onslaught of Covid-19, Father Barrett said.

On June 3, India reported its biggest jump in daily coronavirus cases, with 9,304 people testing positive. The total number stood at 217,000 on June 4. Maharashtra continued to be worst hit with 74,860 cases and 2,500 deaths, nearly half of about 6,000 Covid-19 deaths in the country.

Cyclone Nisarga hit India two weeks after the more severe Cyclone Amphan slammed the eastern coast of India and Bangladesh on May 20.

Amphan killed some 100 people and destroyed the livelihoods of millions of people in the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha besides the southern region of Bangladesh.

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