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Flooding affects millions in India, church responds

Flash-floods inundated villages and submerged homes killing 37 people

K.C. Philip, Patna

K.C. Philip, Patna

Updated: August 26, 2016 10:33 AM GMT
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Flooding affects millions in India, church responds

A farmer wades through water in his inundated farmland in Bihar where millions are affected by flooding caused by overflowing rivers and heavy rains. (Photo by Caritas India)

Caritas India is rushing to aid people in flood-hit northern India, where millions of people have been affected by flash-floods that inundated villages and submerged homes killing 37 people and forcing hundreds of thousands into temporary shelters.

Heavy rains forced the region's biggest river, the Ganges and its tributaries to burst their banks in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand states, local media reported. Bihar state was the worst hit both in terms of people displaced and number of those who died and where millions have taken shelter in around 200 relief camps. 

Chandra Shekhar, Minister for Disaster Management in Bihar, said that at least 2.3 million people have suffered from the floods and the fear of more rains to come haunts the plains of Bihar where the Ganges and its many tributaries remain swollen with floodwaters.

"We are gearing up for maximum relief," said Bishop Cajetan Francis of Muzaffarpur whose diocese covers the affected districts in North Bihar. "Caritas India has already launched relief works."

Almost 200 farmers have seen their livelihoods devoured by the flood that has damaged 70 percent of the cultivated rice fields in Bihar. The total loss of property and livestock has yet to be estimated, according to a Caritas India press release.

"We need quick and coordinated action," said Father Maria Selvam, director of the Muzaffarpur Diocesan social service centre, the local partner of Caritas India. "Only non-governmental agencies can provide this service because the government is slow to act and its approach is very casual."

Caritas volunteers are working in the worst affected villages distributing cash vouchers to mothers to buy essential household items and distributing emergency aid kits. 

Nearly 3,000 people across the state have been treated for water-borne diseases by a medical team arranged by Caritas India. Villagers speak of how the water rushed over embankments, inundated villages and turned roads into muddy slop. Over 100 hectors of paddy fields were submerged in several districts on both sides of the Ganges.

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