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In south India, churches aid victims of devastating cyclone

FOLLOWING THE devastating cyclone that wrecked havoc in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state at yearend, church charities are getting aid to affected families.

"People are still struggling without electricity, [with] roofless houses and roads blocked by fallen trees," said Florina Benoit, chief zonal officer of Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA).

Benoit was speaking to ENInews on 16 January from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, after a weekend visit to the worst-hit remote villages around Cuddalore.

"We have distributed emergency relief material in 40 villages. But the task is enormous," said Benoit.

Cyclone Thane pummelled the east coast of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on 30 December, killing nearly 50 and damaging more than 350,000 houses, schools and roads.

CASA, the charity wing of 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches in India, distributed food for more than 6,000 affected people through the local Church of South India (CSI) and Lutheran churches.

While CASA has already spent 1.5 million rupees (nearly US$30,000) in emergency feeding alone, Sushant Aggarwal, CASA’s national director, told ENI news that "we are preparing to assist 1,200 families to repair their houses."

Depending on the international response to the appeal made through the ACT Alliance network, Aggarwal said CASA will step up the rehabilitation effort.

Kishore Kumar Nag, who heads the Division of Social Action of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India (UELCI), told ENInews that the Lutheran churches have distributed emergency food items to more than 1,000 families.

"The damage has been extensive. At least seven members from the Arcot Lutheran Church and Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church have died in the cyclone.

Several churches and educational institutions have been severely damaged along with houses and standing crops," Nag said.

Ambrose Christy, Tamil Nadu coordinator of Caritas, the social action wing of the Catholic church, said it has distributed emergency relief material for 4,000 families.

"We have already started helping to repair the damaged houses of these families," Christy added.