The August 2018 flood situation has been said to be the worst natural calamity Kerala has witnessed in 100 years. The heavy rainfalls were so unprecedented this time of the year, and have flooded the state of Kerala. The rain havoc started on the 8th of August; on the 9th we had 24 dams opened simultaneously due to incessant rains; the following day, state after state in Kerala went on red alert; from the 11threscue mission started; on 15th, the government issued high alert- and, NIBS prayerfully started reaching out to the flood victims. We started off with a strategy of four-level sequential support: Rescue, Relief, Restoration, and Rebuilding.
The turmoil resulted from the losses everywhere was overwhelming…roads, rail tracks, bridges and buildings were flooded in no time. 370 deaths were officially reported and hundreds are still misplaced or missing. 36 main dams and several smaller ones were opened and 87 landslides concurrently hit Kerala. We had 8,50,680 people rescued and sheltered in 3,734 camps. Thousands were stranded without communication and electricity. As water continued rising to the second floors of buildings and rains and landfalls increased, people panicked.
The loss has been immense and unimaginable!
Seeing the trauma ahead, we started praying fervently about the situation and mobilized the faculty-student teams from the New India Bible Seminary for multiple levels of relief services to the flood victims. Here’s a brief daily review.
Aug 15: India’s 72nd independence day. Incessant rainfalls continued all day through, deterring our schedules for the day. Much of the rescue support was provided through online networks with persons and agencies in the government and NGOs particularly in locating and rescuing the stranded people as soon as some information is received, arranging food support to the hungry and finding children who were separated from their parents. Being unable to practically reach many of the places, still, Kerala was on high alert and situation was getting worse hour by hour. Faculty teams at NIBS were equipped under the leadership of Dr. JaisonThomas &JessyJaison and plans were made to help the affected in the best possible ways.
Aug 16: NIBS faculty team volunteered at the Relief Camp at CMS LP School, Myladumpara, where 230 persons from 60 families had their shelter. Obviously, our primary supply that day was food items. The campsite had no electricity and every member was in need of clothes to protect themselves from the rain and mud in the area. Returning from the camp, we bought blankets and towels and gathered six boxes of clothes for the affected families.
These were Sheeja’s words, “It was raining the whole day… and we never wanted to leave home as we never even imagined a situation of waters rising and our houses being swept away… Heavy rains and scary winds continued for a few days and it was midnight when we heard the high flood alert… and we ran just in the nightgowns. We lost our sandals while running and we tightly held on to our dear ones so that we will run to safety together”
Aug 17: We formed a larger team of faculty from NIBS to visit the same camp and distributed blankets, clothes, balms, ointments and basic medicines. Spending time quietly listening to their agony of having nothing left for survival, was the most important part of our day. Listening to people, we realized that the needs in the camp are diverse and crucial. We met with Suma, a woman aged 69 who had recently suffered a heart attack, taken to the relief camp by someone. She said, “all I need is a pair of sandals for my weak feet and my daily medicines for diabetes.” With a smile, she added, “life here in the relief camp is okay, I have food and shelter and many people around me. But… when I get back to my house I will have nothing. Someone told me today that not only my house but the whole neighborhood has gone underwater fully, making even rooftops invisible. I cannot even think of returning.”
We also met teens who needed daily medicines for conditions like epilepsy.
Aug 18: As the same Camp invited us again to share more needs in the camp, a team of faculty and staff went again and provided their needs and cared for the sick and weak, and, particularly the elderly women who suffered severe emotional dilemma as they had their homes and everything they had still completely submerged in water.
Aug 19: After early morning worship and intercession, spent the day purchasing, organizing, planning for the week ahead.
Aug 20: Partnering with the Relief Team from IPC Peniel Church in Anjilithanam, two teams of faculty and staff from NIBS visited five different relief locations and provided food and clothes to the flood victims. These were: NSS UP School-KizhakkanOthera, CMS LP School Myladumpara, Idanad-Pazhayakavu area, Government LP School KizhakkanOthera, and Kompadi area. Meeting with the student community at NIBS, the faculty formed 8 student-teams to further enhance the service force in the next phase of our service that is, restoring each of the affected families back to their homes.
The story of a young man in a camp had left a piercing ache in our hearts. This is what he told us in a feeble voice, “This flood has taken everything I had, including my house. My wedding was fixed and now I’m in this place, empty-handed, not knowing where she is…and what my life is going to be…”
Still, the lovely faces of the several toddlers in the Relief Camps were assuring all of us once again that there is a life to live and hope to hold on.
Aug 21: NIBS organized forty members of faculty and students in four teams to reach out to the affected families in Chengannur, Ambattubhagam, Kallooppara, Thuruthikkad areas where water is just starting to recede. Teams walked miles through marshy lands reaching out to the families that had been desperately waiting for help in making their houses and premises livable. Expected of us was ‘hard work’ in its true sense, in conditions that weren’t easy for many reasons, particularly, the presence of poisonous snakes. Thankfully, the task force was well prepared for the day’s immense demands.
Our first Household Kit was gifted to an elderly woman who lost everything in the house as the entire place got submerged. We met her in her son’s house. The torrent had taken away the temporary doors of the house and everything including wooden and metal furniture. From food to sleeping mats, she needed so many things to start life again. As we handed over the kit, with tears rolling down she said, “is it not the flood that brought you here, to my little house? So, I’m happy.”
Scenes were hard and even traumatic at times. While some grieved about the irreversible loss of their entire life’s earnings, others were heartbroken about the beloved ones, still displaced.
When our team reached the 85-year-old Sasi’s place, walking miles through the marshy land, he had only managed to open the front door of his little house that was submerged in water for days. Mud and water covered everywhere and everything, furniture floated or broken into pieces, all personal documents and valuables washed away…we heard him sobbing and say, “I have nothing left here…”… “and, I don’t know where my two daughters are. Floods separated us. This is adding to my distress now.”
It was a herculean task-making the house and premises livable. Watching all that happened at Sasi’s place, said the Panchayath Vice-President, “This’s been unparalleled service. Please pray for me also as I serve my community.”Thanks to God for enabling NIBS to serve the most deserving ones and all glory to him alone.
The team, exhausted after the day’s work, was just about to return. Then we heard a young woman named Beena shouting for help. From a little far we asked her, “please tell us how we can help you” Her response came quickly, “please don’t leave me and my house. Please come and help me open my house and get it cleaned. All my clothes are gone, I lost my vessels, furniture and the house is full of mud, poisonous insects, and reptiles. My mother broke her leg and now in a relief camp. Everyone in the camp is told to leave to their homes today. I need to bring her here today.”
The team immediately set off, to help. No pathway, no facilities, no drinking water, no electricity, no networks and nothing left in the home. Hard work for over two hours, the team got the house perfectly cleaned for her, making her feel cared for in the midst of loss and loneliness. Thanking the team she made this heart-wrenching appeal saying, “Running for safety, I reached in this relief center and someone carried my mother here. My 20-year-old daughter may be safe somewhere, I don’t know where she is. Please pray that she will be safe and we will meet again soon.”
The day was filled with grace and strength. Networking with the government panchayat authority including the President, Vice President and several of the official representatives helped us significantly in locating the most deserving people in the area. We heard voices calling for prayer by the victims of flood and the local community leaders and health workers. While returning, we were thankful that these dear ones are finally able to come back to their homes in spite of everything. We were also reminded of the hundreds and thousands who lost not only their houses but their land and their beloved ones too. Together we pray that God will help us to reach beyond from providing supplies to becoming a healing touch to the wounded lives around us these days.
Will You Help Bring Hope to God’s Children in Kerala?
Dr. Jaison Thomas is the current principal of OC partner, New India Bible Seminary (NIBS). The seminary has suspended classes to minister to their community. More than 200 seminary students and faculty are actively helping the victims by providing assistance, shelter, food, clothing and more. However, the need is enormous as the situation continues even after a week.
By clicking the link below you will equip emerging Christian leaders at NIBS to share sharing the love of Jesus Christ in this devastating flood with the relief provisions they desperately need.