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Church Helps Flood Victims In Bihar
Father Maria Selvam, director of Muzaffarpur diocese's Social Service Centre, says the floods that started Aug. 20 have affected around 1 million people in the state's northern region. Bettiah, Muzaffarpur and Purnea dioceses cover the region.
Father Selvam told UCA News on Aug. 25 that a breach on Aug. 28 in a dam on the Kosi River in Nepal triggered the floods, which he said have "trapped" seven parishes and half a dozen mission centers of the diocese. "Still our priests and nuns are striving hard to help people with whatever they have, despite being in trouble themselves," the diocesan priest added.
Among the affected are some 60 leprosy patients of Sneha Dham (abode of compassion), a hospital in Muraliganj, a village in Madhepura district, 1,200 kilometers east of New Delhi. The Missionaries of Charity Brothers, founded by Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, manage the 26-year-old facility.
When Brother Ignatius, head of the local brothers' community, spoke with UCA News on Aug. 24, he said the hospital was under 2.5 meters of water. The flooding had forced some 100 villagers to seek shelter there.
The Religious said they stitched plastic bags together to make a canopy on their roof to shelter the leprosy patients. He explained the hospital was able to feed the people, since it usually stores provisions for a month. But it could not renew its daily supply of perishable items such as milk and vegetables.
"Even fuel wood was procured from the market. The floods have blocked all movements of people and goods," Brother Ignatius said. But he added that the leaders of Muzaffarpur diocese, which covers the area, had assured help.
Father Joseph Moses, pastor of Sakhua parish, who is engaged in relief work, told UCA News on Aug. 25 that they are using boats to bring beaten rice, corn and other items to the affected villagers. "Army helicopters sometimes drop food packets," he reported, but he did not think these were enough for the flood victims.
According to Father Aby Abraham, pastor of the diocese's Saharsha parish, half a dozen Church hostels for tribal children are among the worst-affected sites. The youngsters "have taken shelter on rooftops as their schools and hostels are marooned," the Indian Missionary Society priest told UCA News. "They can't cook and so have been starving for days."
Father Abraham said local villagers brought food packets for the children. "It is a common scenario that flood victims loot government relief materials. But in our case the flood victims, though hungry themselves, provided us boats and men to ferry food articles to the hostel children," he added.
The priest revealed that some villagers told him they would have looted the food packets if they were not meant for the hostel children. The priest and children offered Sunday Mass on Aug. 24 for the villagers, he added.
Father Alex Kurissummootil, pastor of Khagaria, another parish of Muzaffarpur diocese, told UCA News that Church people as well as the government became "complacent" after the region was spared the usual July floods. However, the breach in the 60-year-old Kosi dam caused an unexpected and devastating manmade calamity.
The priest said the river has taken a new course after the flooding, affecting hundreds of villages. "Their inhabitants are in panic since they have never faced flood vagaries," he explained. "Church relief teams and government official now advise the people to move out to safer places."
Father Valerian Deepak Tauro, secretary to the Muzaffarpur bishop, told UCA News the diocese has asked for national and international aid agencies to help meet the needs related to the "unprecedented floods."
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