Updated: July 27, 2021 10:48 AM GMT
Catholic dioceses in western India have stepped in to provide immediate succor to affected people after floods and landslides claimed more than 160 lives and displaced thousands.
Maharashtra state reported 149 deaths after the coastal region witnessed unprecedented rains since July 23 that led to floods, landslides and electrocutions in several areas.
“Our priests, nuns and other Catholic volunteers are reaching out to people who have lost everything in the floods. We want to make sure that they don’t go to bed on an empty stomach,” said Father Joe Gonsalves, who oversees social action in the Archdiocese of Bombay.
The metropolitan archdiocese based in state capital Mumbai covers one of the worst flood-hit areas.
Maharashtra's government said rescue teams have evacuated 229,074 people to safe locations.
“Our situation here is very pathetic,” Father Gonsalves told UCA News on July 27. “Thousands of people have lost everything in the floodwater and are left with nothing other than the clothes they put on.”
Church volunteers have been providing cooked meals to more than 2,000 people daily and distributing raw food grains to flood-affected people
The priest said the priority is to provide them with food, water and other basic requirements.
“Church volunteers have been providing cooked meals to more than 2,000 people daily and distributing raw food grains to flood-affected people,” he said.
Special teams of Indian defense forces and the National Disaster Response Force have been pressed into a massive rescue operation in the state.
In neighboring Karnataka state, floodwater has inundated hundreds of villages, particularly in low-lying areas near the Krishna River.
Two people reportedly drowned while engaged in rescue operations in Karnataka.
Father Gonsalves said the Church has thrown open its buildings and institutions to house hundreds of people who have lost homes in Maharashtra.
Mumbai archdiocesan volunteers are also preparing to meet the rehabilitation needs of affected people.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Bombay, appealed to priests, nuns and laypeople to assist flood-affected people.
Father Eusebio Fernandes, social work director of Belgaum Diocese in Karnataka state, said they “have rushed volunteers to take stock of the situation.”
He said several areas of the diocese are “inundated and we cannot reach out to the villages as roads are also submerged.”
The priest said the diocese is trying to help people but faces a financial crunch because most of its funds have been spent on Covid-19 relief works
The rains were not particularly heavy in Karnataka but water released from dams in Maharashtra caused flooding of the Krishna River, affecting people living on its banks, Father Fernandes told UCA News on July 27.
The priest said the diocese is trying to help people but faces a financial crunch because most of its funds have been spent on Covid-19 relief works.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray promised that the government will do “everything to make you [those affected] stand on your feet.”
Thackeray also asked officials to make arrangements for food, clothes, medicines and other immediate needs of flood-affected people.
Northern states were also affected by heavy rains. Nine people were killed in a landslide in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh state on July 25.