INDIA: Salesians Provide Relief, Plans for Future after Cyclone Thane Hits Southeast India
(MissionNewswire) Salesians continue relief efforts in local villages devastated by Cyclone Thane. The beginning of the New Year brought destruction to parts of Southeast India. On the evening of Dec. 31, 2011, Cyclone Thane barreled through the districts of Cuddalore, Villupuram and Puducherry. In its wake, residents dealt with leveled homes, uprooted trees, flooded farmlands that destroyed precious crops and the death of dozens of men, women and children.
The immediate relief that survivors needed was vast, according to Father Johnson Antonysamy, director of the Salesian mission in Chennai. People were without food, water, electricity and shelter. Those with thatched roofs had their roofs blown off and more than 20,000 people were displaced. The Salesians dealt with their own destruction from the cyclone. Their property in Puducherry, Cuddalore and the missions in Gedilam and Maranodi Vinnarasi saw shattered windows, sheared off roofs, destroyed water heaters, and ruined equipment in several vocational centers. But despite their own losses, the Salesians stepped in during the immediate aftermath and provided shelter in their missions, meals, clean water, clothing and comfort to those affected by the devastation.
“I don’t know what we would have done without a place to sleep,” says one villager whose thatched hut was carried away by the winds, and whose family is now staying at the mission in Chennai. “We would be out in the elements wondering how to survive. We are so grateful to the Salesians for their help.”
The Salesians’ work will go far beyond the immediate relief that was needed in the days following Cyclone Thane. Entire communities must rebuild. In addition to their social development and education programs that were taking place prior to the cyclone, the Salesians must now rebuild their own missions and lead community efforts for long-term recovery.
“Beyond these immediate needs, we must offer mid- and long-term assistance,” says Fr. Antonysamy. “We are facing a years-long process of reconstruction.”
Cyclone Thane will have long-term effects on the economy of the region. Infrastructure support is just one area of need. To restore the standard of living, the Salesians plan to create a Disaster Management Endowment Fund to help underwrite the costs of rebuilding roads, restoring electricity and other long-term needs. For those displaced, houses that once had thatch roofs must be rebuilt with stronger materials to better withstand extremes in weather.
In addition, farms essential to the livelihood of their owners have been devastated. In some villages, almost 80 percent of some long standing crops – such as rice, corn, sugarcane, and bananas – have been destroyed. According to Fr. Antonysamy, some estimate it may take seven years for farmers to recover and rebuild these crops. In some villages, entire cashew groves were destroyed with not even a single cashew tree left standing. Estimates indicate it will take years to regrow these groves, Antonysamy adds. The Salesians are launching a farmers’ association to aid in agricultural recovery efforts, including options for financial assistance.
Given their long-standing educational work in these communities, the Salesians hope to help residents not only envision a sustainable future, but to participate in building it.
“We are resilient here in southeast India,” says Fr. Antonysamy. “Together with the people we serve, we will build a better future.”
To aid their rebuilding efforts, Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, has set up a fund to assist in the relief efforts. To give, go to SalesianMissions.org, click on “Donate Now” and select “India Cyclone Relief Fund.”
Salesian Missions Feb. 13 press release: Salesian Missions Creates Fund to Assist Cyclone Victims in Southeast India
Salesian Info Agency:
Deccan Herald article Cyclone Thane death toll rises to 43: