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Bleak Winter Awaits Kashmir’s Flood Victims, Say Church Workers

23 Sep 2014 – By Anto Akkara

THRISSUR, India (CNS) — The hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been devastated by recent floods in northern Jammu and Kashmir state — the coldest region in the country — will have to face a very bleak winter, caution church aid workers.

“One-third of the houses have collapsed in the floods. Many more are on the verge of collapse as they have been under water for several days. The people have lost everything and winter is at hand,” Anjan Bag, coordinator the relief work of the Caritas India, social action wing of the Indian church, told Catholic News Service on 23 September from Srinagar.

“Providing shelter material and drinking water remains the biggest challenge for us,” said Bag.

“Twenty percent of the water is still to recede even after two weeks. There is still plenty of water around. But the people are desperate for drinking water as wells and tube wells have been submerged and contaminated,” Bag said about the flood that has affected more than 2 million people since 6 September.

While more than 280 deaths have been confirmed by government officials on the Indian side of Kashmir in the foothills of the snow-capped Himalayas, flash floods resulting from the torrents of water from the Kashmir Valley have claimed more than 200 lives in Pakistan.

“We have already distributed the 200 tents we procured. We are waiting for more to reach Kashmir,” Bag said.

Meanwhile, Caritas workers are trying to get essentials such as bedding, sanitation kits, kitchen utensils and water purification tablets to more than 2,000 families, Bag said.

“We are also hiring trucks to carry water to the needy people,” he added.

Catholic medical teams from Delhi are also running camps because only one of the three government hospitals in Srinagar is functional. Others remain under water.

“Many families have practically lost everything,” Rekha Shetty, director for disaster management of Catholic Relief Services, told C.N.S. after returning from a weeklong trip to devastated villages in the Jammu region.

“The media focus has been on Srinagar with its big buildings under water. But there are hundreds of remote villages where nobody has reached,” said Shetty.

“Once the relief camps [run by the army] are shut, where will they go? Many families are without a roof, and winter is fast approaching,” said Shetty.

She said a C.R.S. relief team began distributing materials in Jammu on 23 September. The kits include shelter material, blankets and household items like kitchen utensils.

“Our aim is to provide tents to provide space, privacy, and protection from rain, heat, wind and disease vectors. We will focus mostly on remote areas under Reasi, Jammu and Bandipora districts,” Shetty added.

Tony Castleman, C.R.S. country representative for India, told C.N.S. the Indian government asked the agency to support the remote populations.

A senior official of Jammu and Kashmir state has put the economic loss from the worst floods in 60 years at $10 billion.

Tags: India Relief Indian Christians Indian Catholics