BROOKHAVEN – Father Alphonse Arulanandu, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, is asking for help for the people of his homeland who are facing a natural disaster familiar to many in Mississippi, severe flooding.
Father Arulanandu is from the Catholic diocese of Jammu-Srinagar. The diocese has missions in all three regions flooded right now – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. His bishop, Bishop Peter Celestine, sent a letter detailing the damage and asking the priests from his diocese serving abroad for help.
“The flood has hit five missions in Jammu region, namely, Mandal, Akalpur, Poonch and Rajouri leaving complete or partial devastation of Christian houses, school and church buildings along with many people.
The missions in Kashmir are located in flood-hit Srinagar and Baramulla. In Srinagar there are two educational institutions, namely, Presentation Convent School and Burn Hall School which are submerged up to the first floor (18-20 feet). As per the last communication we had with the priests and sisters, they have taken shelter in attics of the school buildings. They still await for rescue team for evacuation, even after five days. The mission has also 32 catholic families within the vicinity of Srinagar city and they too are affected badly. As per reports coming in, the Holy Family Catholic Church located in Srinagar city also has submerged in water. There are no whereabouts of the priests residing in priest house in the church campus.”
Bishop Joseph Kopacz has approved a special collection in Brookhaven for the people of the Diocese of Jammu-Srinagar, and invites all the faithful to contribute as well. Checks can be directed to the Diocese of Jackson, PO box 2130, Jackson, MS, 39201. Please mark that the donation is for flood victims in the Diocese of Jammu- Srinagar.
Nationally, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has appealed to Catholics to mobilize funds and materials to augment church relief work in northern Jammu and Kashmir state, devastated by floods.
While nearly 250 people have perished in the floods following torrential rains in the Kashmir Valley in the foothills of the Himalayas, more than 700,000 people have been marooned on rooftops, trees and hills since Sept. 7.
Media reported that the casualty figures could mount as many areas have no communication links and the extent of death and devastation is not known yet. Even in the state capital, Srinagar, floodwaters had risen up to the fourth floor of buildings, and some people had to swim to safety.
The bishops’ Sept. 10 appeal expressed “sympathy and solidarity with those thousands of people who lost their homes, shelters and other establishments due to the unprecedented deluge,” the worst in 60 years.
In the appeal to the bishops and other leaders of the church, the conference president, Cardinal Baselios Thottunkal, exhorted “the community of faithful, institutions and people of good will to contribute generously to rebuild the lives of the people.”
With heavy presence of security forces in the Kashmir region plagued by Islamic militancy, security forces have been leading the evacuation of the marooned people by boat or by airlifting them.
Caritas India, social action wing of the Indian church, said people are “with no means to communicate their location to the rescuers as the power and telephone lines (including) mobile links are down for three days in a row.”
Father Frederick D’Souza, director of Caritas India, told Catholic News Service his agency also already helped 4,000 affected families.
“Five members of our emergency team are in Kashmir now assessing the situation. They are in touch with government officials to coordinate the relief work,” he said. Babita Alick, Caritas India’s team leader for disaster management, told CNS that “two Caritas staff who flew to (worst-hit) Srinagar could not move out of the airport surrounded by floodwater. They were stranded there for two days.”
“Based on results of the assessment, CRS will provide emergency relief to address priority unmet needs,” Castleman said.
(Anto Akkara of Catholic News Service contributed to this report)
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