MUMBAI, India – Churches and schools in the Archdiocese of Bombay opened their doors to people seeking refuge from floods devastating Mumbai.
Heavy monsoon rains have paralyzed the city, with five inches of rain falling on Tuesday alone.
“Due to the extreme weather conditions, and the heavy rains disrupting Mumbai’s rail, road, and services, many people are stranded. Hence, I have asked all churches and schools and institutions in our archdiocese to offer refugee irrespective of caste and creed,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias told Crux.
Air and rail service were suspended or delayed in Mumbai, stranding thousands of commuters.
The flooding is the worst in the city in over a decade, and so far five deaths have been attributed to the storm. Floods in 2005 led to the deaths of more than 500 people across the city.
Emergency services in the city had been overwhelmed on Tuesday, with many emergency personnel themselves being stranded because of the floods. Health authorities are worried, since sewage and rubbish is being carried through the streets by the floodwater.
“Throughout the night people continued to come for shelter and food….it continues to remain open. offering shelter and food,” said Father Fitzgerald Fernandes, the director of the Diocesan Pastoral Center.
He told Crux dozens of people visited the facility. Some just stopped for a respite from the rains, leaving after having a meal, but others were prevented by the rising waters from returning home.
“We responded by God’s Grace without any discrimination of caste or creed,” the priest said.
The pastoral center is across the street from the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, which has been preparing for its annual feast, which will be celebrated on September 10.
Since they could not get home, the 18 people working in the basilica also had to spend the night on Tuesday, although several of the workers told Crux they would continue on their preparations the next day.
Meanwhile, over 300 people took shelter at the Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work, a Catholic institution in southern Mumbai.
The monsoon has caused flooding across the region, and over 1,200 people have died in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Caritas India has been providing victims with drinking water, sanitation, hygiene kits and cash.