NEW DELHI (CNS) — A cyclone killed more than 40 people and displaced hundreds of others in southern India, severely damaging farmland and buildings, including the region’s most revered Marian shrine.
Ucanews.com reported that Catholic agencies joined the Tamil Nadu state government in relief efforts to help people affected by Cyclone Gaja in Thanjavur Diocese and Pondicherry Archdiocese.
Officials said at least 46 people were killed and more than 100,000 displaced when their thatched homes were blown away by strong winds and driving rain that hit coastal areas early Nov. 16, when Gaja made landfall.
“More than 122,000 people have been evacuated and are in 351 relief camps, while rescue teams are helping others in villages, cut off by the storm,” said John Arokiaraj of Caritas India, the Catholic Church’s social action arm in the region.
He said at least 10,120 houses were destroyed and another 5,770 partially damaged, while 1,300 fishing boats and other fishing gear were damaged. Livestock, crops and coconut trees also were destroyed, he said.
“The livelihoods of our people are destroyed when their fishing equipment or livestock and farmlands were destroyed,” said John Zachariah, Thanjavur diocesan chancellor.
More than 30 churches, including the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health at Velankanni, some 60 chapels and 15 schools also were damaged in the cyclone, he said.
Father A.M.A. Prabhakar, rector of the Marian shrine, said the storm blew a cross off one of the shrine’s two towers.
“Another building in the compound also suffered damage,” and the arms of a 2-meter statue of Jesus Christ also suffered damaged. “There was no loss of life or injury at the shrine.”
The shrine, a pilgrim center since the 16th century, attracts some 20 million people a year. Church officials said some 3 million of them visit during an 11-day annual festival that concludes Sept. 8, which Catholics celebrate as Mary’s birthday.
Despite the damage, hundreds of people were taking shelter in the buildings within the shrine compound, and 15 other Catholic parishes were providing shelter and assisting people, church officials said.
“Caritas India is assessing the damage and will begin immediate relief intervention as soon as possible,” said a statement from Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Lebanon’s Catholic leaders appeal for Middle East peace
NEXT: ‘Homeless Jesus’ sculpture finds home outside Rio de Janeiro’s cathedral
Share this story