UCANEWS, AUGUST 18, 2006
JABALPUR, India (UCAN) – A Catholic prelate has asked his people to contribute generously to flood relief in their central Indian state.
Jesuit Archbishop Pascal Topno of Bhopal told UCA News the Church is now busy helping people affected by what he said is the worst flooding he has seen there, brought on by heavy rain beginning Aug. 13.
As of Aug. 17, the rain and floods had claimed 73 lives in the state, including 21 in Bhopal, the most severely affected area. The city, 750 kilometers (about 465 miles) south of New Delhi, is the Madhya Pradesh capital.
Archbishop Topno, 74, heads the Catholic Church in the state. Under his direction Bhopal Archdiocese has focused all its resources on relief work among the more than 500,000 affected people in its territory. According to government reports, flooding has destroyed more than 5,000 shanties.
The Church, Archbishop Topno said, has focused its efforts on the impoverished shanty areas. He cited lack of funds as a major handicap. “I have sent letters to all Catholic institutions in the archdiocese to contribute generously to help the affected people,” he reported, adding that the archdiocese would ask district authorities to designate areas for the church to conduct relief work or assist in other ways.
Father P. Soosai, who directs the archdiocese’s social-service agency, told UCA News the church has opened two temporary shelters and provided food and clothing. It now is trying to arrange medical help for the people, he added.
The priest said he has asked various donor agencies for urgent assistance. According to him, rebuilding houses is “a big task,” since the people have nobody else to help them.
Sister Annie Joseph, who works among the flood victims, said church people now fear an epidemic could break out and have found no proper place to set up a medical camp. The Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary nun told UCA News the people affected the most are poor slum dwellers.
Even where floodwaters have receded, dirt, silt and debris make it difficult to reach people, according to Deepak Ekka, who works with the archdiocesan social-service center.
Some displaced people talked with UCA News about their plight.
Laxmi Bai said she was grateful to the church for providing them food and clothes. The 30-year-old mother of five said that after the water level rose suddenly and destroyed their hut, they had nowhere to go. Her family now stays with about 2,000 other people at a church shelter.
A daily-wage earner, Ranjita Khoge, said the only help they received came from church people. The 30-year-old mother of two bemoaned that no one from the government “bothered to visit us,” even after two days of flooding.
Sabhir Bai, 55, another woman at the Church shelter, said she had gone to the local member of the municipal council for help. “He asked us to provide him with photographs of the destroyed house along with photos of each family member,” she reported. She added that her 10-member family stayed in the open before coming to the church shelter.