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Floods kill 40, render millions homeless in southern India

Hundreds of church institutions, including convents, were marooned after floodwater plowed through residential areas

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Floods kill 40, render millions homeless in southern India

Holy Trinity Church in Hyderabad under floodwater on Oct. 14 after two days of incessant rains caused a flash flood in southern India that claimed some 40 lives. (Photo supplied)

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More than 40 people were killed and thousands rendered homeless when a flash flood hit the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana following 48 hours of torrential rain.

Thousands of hectares of paddy fields, vegetable gardens and cash crops like cotton in both the Telugu-speaking states were submerged, threatening the livelihoods of millions of farmers.

Water raced through residential areas and farmland after authorities opened 13 of the 17 floodgates on Himayat Sagar Lake's reservoir on Oct. 14 after the water level rose to its capacity. The inflow made the Musi River brim to capacity.

"We have no clear idea about the exact number of lives lost, houses damaged, livestock killed and crops lost," said Father Bellam Konda Sudhakar, who manages the social work center of the Don Bosco congregation in the region.

Several churches, convents, schools and other church-run intuitions have been left marooned.

Rescue teams saved 10 orphan children from a marooned care home run by Navjeevan (new life) sisters, an indigenous congregation in Hyderabad Archdiocese.

"It is a horrible situation here. We do not know how to handle it," said Father Thomas Pasala, social work director of Vijaywada Diocese in Andhra Pradesh.

"The farmers and the poor living in the slums and other low-lying areas have been hit badly by the flood," he told UCA News on Oct. 15. "We can only see water everywhere, just like the sea, except for a few trees and partially drowned high-rise buildings." 

However, the rain subsided on Oct. 15, bringing much relief to people, he said.

Father Pasala said their resources have already "dried up as we spent all that we can for Covid-19 relief work. We are trying to gather whatever possible for the needy."

The Indian Army and the National Disaster Response Force have joined rescue and relief work in the worst-affected areas of Telangana.

Local reports say some 30 people were killed in Telangana, mostly caused by the collapse of buildings and electrocution.

At least 10 people were killed in Andhra Pradesh during the same period.

Father Sudhakar, based in Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana state, said a flood of this nature was "unprecedented in this area, and we are practically helpless."

He said the parish priest and his assistant at Holy Trinity Church in Begmpett in Hyderabad city swam to safety after their church and its presbytery were inundated by 10 feet of water for the first time in history.

"Most of part of Hyderabad was underwater with no one able to move out," said Father Sudhakar, whose social work activities cover both the states, which was undivided Andhra Pradesh state until 2014.

Catholic social work teams have been trying to reach suffering people but were unsuccessful because the road connecting the city was submerged, he told UCA News on Oct. 15.

Construction laborers, slum dwellers and others living in Hyderabad's low-lying areas are stranded as their tin sheds and tarpaulin shelters were washed away.

"We saw them stranded in under-construction buildings and in elevated places. We are trying to supply them at least with some food and water," the priest said.

Since power supply and communication lines were disrupted immediately after the rain, "we are not sure of our own people, including religious, priests and others living in different parts of the state."

Government officials told media that assessment of crop damage would be done in a week. The floods have adversely affected paddy, cotton and maize crops in particular, they said.

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