Norfolk minister reports on Indian floods in Kerala
Tens of thousands are now homeless in the Kerala region of Southern India which has been hit by the worst floods in living memory says Norwich minister Rev Pat Atkinson, who has been working in the area with her Vidiyal Trust charity for the past 28 years. Keith Morris reports.
The charity’s main buildings in Kerala, from which they serve street orphans and elders, are south of the floods so are fine but the work of its palliative care ambulances has been affected in the flood-struck areas.
Pat said: “We did send a relief ambulance from Madurai where our main work is now, filled with bottled water and dried goods. The roads into the most affected areas are impassable but we have contacts with churches near to the affected area and the goods are in the process of being delivered there.
Kerala is a state of big divides with excellent hotels and beautiful homes as well as city slums and severe poverty, explained Pat, who also said that some areas are suffering from drought.
“Madurai, our main centre still has no water, the Western Ghats mountain range being between us and the worst flood areas. It is 13 years now since the last monsoon, all of the rivers are completely empty, and in most areas people have to rely on standpipes which are turned on intermittently, so people are really suffering. In Madurai well over half of the population has no access to drinking water or sanitation. The World Health Organisation says that our Tamil Nadu area will be desert in 50 years.
“The only good thing to come out of the floods is that the release of water from the dams in Kerala will put some water in to the north of the state, this will mean that some crops will be grown in that area,” said Pat.
“The longer term issues will also be there, only recently have all the paddy fields been producing well after the devastation of a tsunami. Now they have been destroyed again and this will have a long term effect, particularly on those who earn their living as field labourers, moving from one field to another, now that work will not be available.
“The picture in my mind was on the television - it showed an old man standing where his shack had been before being washed away, he said ‘all I owned was in that shack, now I can’t work because the fields are flooded and I have nowhere to go’. He is one of tens of thousands.
“The government have apparently been excellent in their response,” said Pat, “but a big rehoming problem faces them.
Pat will return to India in late September for her 54th trip, when the waters should have receded: “We will then see what we can best do, in the meantime our palliative care ambulances will continue to check on those we support with terminal care.
Pictured above is the flooding in Kerala. Picture copyright Ranjithsiji.