On June 16, 2013, the heaviest rainfall on record lashed India’s Himalayan region of Uttarakhand forcing glacier lakes and rivers to overflow and inundate towns and villages in 168 districts at about 37,000 square kilometer area. The state of Uttarakhand has been experiencing heavy rains continuously for 2 days and the downpour has caused flash floods and landslides in various places like Srinagar, Joshimath, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Govindghat, Kedarnath, Gaurikund and Uttarkashi, etc. and caused the destruction of houses, roads, communication and transportation. According to unofficial reports damaged to life has reached around 14,000 deaths and recently, authorities say that the 5,748 people registered as missing are now “presumed dead” – making the disaster the deadliest ever in the Himalayas. Some of them were Hindu pilgrims as they celebrated Chardam Yatra (Hindu feast). Hundreds of buildings including 40 hotels situated along the bank river Alakananda, more than 100 roads and 40 bridges are swept away by the flood waters.
In the field of disaster management it is only through a collective responsibility and effort of the public, voluntary organizations and local government agencies that we can attain our expected outcome in our relief activities. Recognizing this reality, the new administration of the Camillian Indian Province has decided to become a consoling hands among the victims of flood-ravaged Uttarakhand. Last July, the Camillian Task Force (CTF) of India lead by Fr. Siby Kaitharan, MI and two other Camillian religious (Fr. Jaison and Fr. Sojan) together with some members of the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) went to Uttarakhand, distributed relief goods and conducted a rapid assessments of needs for about two weeks in preparation for a long term intervention plan. This August 3, the first batch (13 volunteers) of the CTF team lead by three Camillians (Bro. Madhu, Fr. Teji, Fr. Jofree) pushed back to Uttarakhand to begin the relief and rehabilitation program. They are ready with eager minds to render services to the flood victims in some districts of Uttarakhand. The relief and rehabilitation programs will be executed in two phases: 1] to meet the immediate needs of the victims such as food, temporary shelter and clothing within 3 months; 2] to respond to the social needs, strengthen psychosocial support and build permanent shelter of survivors.
- To supply food and water in the relief camps;
- To provide medical services to affected people; and
- To provide temporary shelter to those who are stranded and permanent shelter to resident survivors whose house were completely damaged.
Streams and rivers have been contaminated and turbid and not safe for human consumption. Primary water source facilities were damaged and people has to walk for long distances to get water. The survivors have no dry wood to boil the water. Thus potable water, water treatment facility and repair of water sources are urgent needs.
Medical care service and sanitation facilities
Many people are at risk with various illnesses and contaminations. Most of the families have no or lost their sanitation facilities. In some villages, only the upper caste families have latrines whereas the lower caste (poor people) practice open defecation near the water sources which brings the risk of oral-fecal contamination. Thus, medical service and prevention of transmission of diseases are badly needed.
Affected populace are living in temporary makeshifts that exposed them to harsh weather conditions. People living along the rivers has moved up to higher grounds or lived with their relatives whose houses are small and pose a danger of disease transmission due to congestion. Majority have lost their sources of income and have nothing to rebuild their houses or to rent temporarily. CTF India team has identified Simlakala (village) where 107 families have lost all their properties and shelters but not all received help. At present, they are staying along the roads using plastic tents. They are planning to find a safe place in order to build permanent houses (50) for underserved families.
Appeal for Help
The disaster of Uttarakhand is a national tragedy affecting a large number of people. The religious along with the rest of the Church are deeply moved by this tragedy and responds with prayer and action to support the victims. The most affected area is the diocese of Bijnor. Fr. Siby, CTF India coordinator said: “We are closely collaborating with the Diocesan authorities and getting involve in their intervention activities. Thousands have died, lost their houses and livelihood; thousands of unidentified dead bodies are found and thousands are still missing. It takes a long time to build their life back to normalcy. We appeal to everybody to support this cause with their prayers and financial contributions according to their means and possibilities. We shall ensure that whatever financial aid you may like to provide through the CTF-India reaches to the people for whom it is intended to.”