Caritas Seconds Pope's Call for Flood Relief

Southeast Asia Still Pelted by Heavy Rains

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ROME, AUG. 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Caritas Internationalis is echoing Benedict XVI's call to help the populations of Southeast Asia where this year's monsoon season has already claimed well over 2,000 lives.



"More than half of Bangladesh and parts of India are still under water after a month of heavy monsoon flooding. Caritas fears the situation will worsen as heavy rains continue to fall across much of South Asia," the institution affirmed today.

Caritas organizations have been busy providing much-needed assistance to some of the more than 30 million people displaced by massive flooding in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

But millions of people are still living in makeshift shelters near embankments and roads and are in dire need of basic necessities.

"There are still so many families who are totally helpless, living on the streets or under trees or in other people's houses," said Denis Baskey, regional director of Caritas Rajshahi in Bangladesh. "They need food, water, medicines. It is quite desperate."

Getting relief to remote villages has not been easy, with roads washed away and water neck-high in some places.

Contamination

In Bihar in northern India, children have reportedly been swimming and trying to bathe in dirty flood waters contaminated by corpses, dead livestock and waste, while others have been forced by thirst to drink from the stagnant pools.

"The villages in and around Darbhanga in Bihar look like islands surrounded by an ocean," said Father Varghese Mattamana, executive director of Caritas India.

He added, "There are no boats to reach remote villages, and it may take months for the water to subside."

On Aug. 12, the Pope called for help for the affected populations as the water devastated several countries of Southeast Asia, causing numerous deaths and destroying the livelihood of millions of people.

"As I express my profound participation in the suffering of the afflicted populations, I urge ecclesial communities to pray for the victims and to support the initiatives of solidarity organized to alleviate the suffering of so many harshly tried people," said the Holy Father.

He added, "May these brothers and sisters of ours not lack the prompt and generous help of the international community!"