Kerala floods: Catholic nuns take forefront in relief work

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More than 6,700 Catholic nuns are among those helping over a million people taking shelter in relief camps after unprecedented floods ravaged Kerala, a south-western Indian state. “This is the biggest rescue and relief operation the Catholic Church in Kerala has under-taken in its history,” says 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 Aug. 15 through Aug. 20. The rain has stopped in many places and water is now receding.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Aug. 24 told the media that the rains and floods have claimed 417 lives. At least 36 people are still missing. The floods initially displaced nearly 1.3 million people. About 869,000 people were still sheltered in 2,787 relief centres in the state, Vijayan said.

The initial estimated loss was around 200 billion rupees ($2.85 billion).

Vettikattil says all 32 Catholic dioceses in Kerala have joined relief works. As many as 69,821 young people and 99,705 lay volunteers joined 6,737 nuns, 2,891 priests and 354 seminarians to rescue stranded people with the help of government agencies and individually, the priest told Global Sisters Report.

The state also has 2,178 religious priests and 447 brothers who have also joined in helping the flood affected.

“We have formed separate groups comprising priests, nuns and brothers to clean the mud from houses of people living in relief camps,” Sister Modesta, who is a member of the Congregation of Teresian Carmelites, told GSR. “They leave in the morning and work until evening,” she added.

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