INDIA: Salesian Missionaries are Responding to Local Need in Wake of Cyclone Vardah
(MissionNewswire) On Monday Dec. 12, Tropical Cyclone Vardah, with winds reaching close to 87 miles per hour, made landfall near Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, and also affected the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh. Cyclone Vardah, equal to a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, forced thousands to evacuate and killed 23, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. The cyclone was the most severe storm to hit the area since the 2015 South Indian floods that resulted from heavy rainfall generated by the annual northeast monsoon season, which killed 500 people and left 1.8 million displaced.
Cyclone Vardah flattened homes to the ground, disabled communication lines and brought the local transport system to a halt. Salesian missionaries living and working in Chennai are reporting that more than 12,000 trees were knocked down as a result of the cyclone in Chennai and its suburbs. Not only were trees uprooted but the winds brought down overhead cable lines and electricity poles. The cyclone damaged more than 7,000 huts and the power infrastructure within Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu government has indicated that 7,350 people were shifted to 54 relief camps set up in Chennai, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur and Villupuram districts.
Salesian missionaries have been responding with relief efforts by providing food, supplies and hygiene kits to local residents while dealing with damage to their own programs. At the Don Bosco Girls Home in Chennai, while all 45 girls living at the residence are safe, the galvanized roofing on the second floor residence has collapsed completely and the overhead water tank has been toppled over due to the heavy wind. Both power and water supply have been disconnected. At the Anbu Illam Street Children’s Home, trees fell on one building severely damaging it as well as broke all the windows. Additional Salesian programs have been affected with trees down, buildings damaged and water and power supplies damaged.
The Salesian-run Pope John’s Garden – Center for HIV/AIDS and Leprosy Patients suffered the most damage. More than 250 trees across 35 acres of land have been uprooted, most of which were coconut and mango trees. These trees were providing regular income to manage the center. The center will also need to hire people from the outside to clear all the trees because the work is too much for the Salesian staff to handle themselves. In addition, four of the patient homes, the water tank and the center’s compound wall have all been destroyed. The center is also currently without power. Salesian missionaries are currently working to bring in water from outside of the center to provide to the patients.
“Salesian missionaries have a lot of work to do while working to help local residents who are in need,” says Father Alphonse Arulanandam, director of the Salesian Strategic Urban Rural Advancement Backing Institute. “The transformers in most of the Salesian houses have been broken completely and so even if the government reconnects the power lines it may not help the Salesian institutions to get power immediately. Installing new transformers and rewiring has to be completed by the Salesian communities in order to get complete power supply which may take up to 10 days.”
Salesian missionaries in the area will continue working hard to assess the damage and assist local residents while focusing on clearing damage, debris and fallen trees, renovating buildings, and repairing water tanks.
Photo courtesy ANS