More than 6,700 Catholic women religious are among those helping more than one million people taking shelter in relief camps after unprecedented floods ravaged Kerala state in southwest India.
“This is the biggest rescue and relief operation the Catholic Church in Kerala has undertaken in its history,” said Fr George Vettikattil, who heads the Church’s relief operations in the state.
The Church deployed its personnel and opened its institutions across Kerala to help people after rains and massive floods devastated 13 of Kerala’s 14 districts from 15th through to 20th August. The rain has stopped in many places and water has begun receding.
The floods initially displaced nearly 1.3 million people. About 869,000 people were still sheltered in 2,787 relief centres in the state, a government official told the media in late August.
All 32 Catholic dioceses in Kerala have joined relief works, Fr Vettikattil told Global Sisters Report. As many as 69,821 young people and 99,705 other lay volunteers helped 6,737 nuns, 2,891 priests and 354 seminarians to rescue stranded people with the help of government agencies. Another 2,178 religious priests and 447 brothers in the state joined the relief effort too.
The church workers, especially nuns, take care of all the needs of the camp residents, Fr Vettikattil said. “Sisters play a pivotal role in taking care of the elderly, children and the sick.”
Catholic aid agency Caritas India had spent about £67,000 distributing food, medicine and sanitation items. Its director, Fr Paul Moonjely, said the agency plans to raise more funds.
Sr Modesta, secretary of the Kerala unit of the Conference of Religious India, told Global Sisters Report that the state’s nuns, priests and brothers work in groups to clean the mud from the houses of people living in relief camps. “They leave in the morning and work until evening,” she said.
Picture: Women religious and other residents walk in floodwaters in Kerala state in India on 23rd August. More than 6,700 Catholic women religious are among those helping one million people taking shelter in relief camps after unprecedented floods ravaged southwest India. (CNS photo/courtesy Father Jolly Vadakken via Global Sisters Report).