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Kerala floods brings out compassionate side to humanity

Road submerged in Kerala, India

Under water: An aerial view shows a partially submerged road in the Indian state of Kerala Aug. 19. Photo: CNS/Sivaram V, Reuters.

TORRENTIAL rain may have brought an entire Indian state under water, killing hundreds and leaving thousands stranded, but the people of Kerala have showed awe-inspiring resilience.

Kerala’s monsoon season gave way to the state’s worst floods in 100 years, claiming the lives of 445 people and destroying entire properties.

More than 220,000 people have been forced to take up refuge in relief camps, many of which are hosted in Catholic churches and schools.

Despite the horrifying images coming out of the state, Kerala-born priest Fr Subin Thomas, who works in the Murgon parish in Brisbane archdiocese, said the unity and help his people were receiving was inspiring.

“There are different stories coming up in social media about how the people are helping,” Fr Thomas, a member of the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, said.

“I read a little girl contributed 8000 rupees which she collected for buying a new bicycle.

“There are lots of stories coming through social media, and that’s a good sign people are very kind and loving.

“That’s the best thing we can see and experience in this bad situation.”

Fr Thomas said people in neighbouring Indian states were astounded by the generosity being shown to people who had never seen flooding of this sort in their lives.

“All the other different states are wondering how we survived this difficult situation,” he said.

Fr Thomas’ own sister is one of the survivors from one of the worst-hit areas of Kerala.

Sr Tesmin, a member of the Sacred Heart Congregation, teaches at St Claret School, run by the Claretian Fathers, in Vythiri, a small town in the Wayanad district of Kerala.

Fr Thomas said the school, presbytery and adjoining house had been inundated with floodwaters caused by heavy rain and cloudbursts twice in a fortnight.

He said everyone in the state was rebuilding their lives.

“All we can do is pray,” Fr Thomas said.

Parish priest at Aspley in Brisbane archdiocese Fr John Panamthottam is keeping his brothers in prayer as they prepare for the biggest clean-up of their lives in Kochi, home to Kerala’s busiest airport.

“Two of my brothers’ houses were under water,” Fr Panamthottam, a member of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, said.

“So at present water has receded but the houses are filled with mud, snakes and carcasses of animals.

“They lost all the household articles, all their things.

“It’s also a shock for others as well.”

Fr Panamthottam will fly out to Kerala on September 17 for his annual holiday and is planning on staying with his brothers for one to two days.

“It’s a special situation, the worst that’s ever happened in our place,” he said.

“I don’t remember anything like that.

“It must be a warning from God.”

Fr Panamthottam said the biggest problem for residents was the drinking water from the communal well which had been contaminated from the floodwaters.

The basic infrastructure including roads and sewages would also need major repairs.

“It will take time (to rebuild); I think a minimum three or four months it will take,” Fr Panamthottam said.

Several Australian charities and religious groups, including Caritas Australia and Salesian Missions Australia, have launched appeals to give financial support to the victims in Kerala.

Salesian Missions director Br Michael Lynch said the local Salesians from Don Bosco Vaduthala had opened a relief camp at Don Bosco School and Youth Centre for the people affected by floods.

About 6000 people from more than 1400 families have registered in the camp.

Don Bosco School, along with the government, local people and NGOs collected water, food, clothes, medicines and emergency articles, and distributed them to the people.

Medical check-ups were organised to prevent epidemics and for emergency health needs.

Donations to the Salesians’ appeal can be sent to PO Box 264, Ascot Vale, Victoria 3032 or via their website

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