Mumbai’s Flood victims find solace in places of worship

Mumbai: Churches, mosques and temples in Mumbai came forward to offer succor to people stranded in floods and heavy rains that devastated the western Indian metropolis.

At least five inches of rain fell on August 29 alone halting normal life in India’s commercial capital. Air and rail service were suspended or delayed in Mumbai, stranding thousands of commuters, reported.

The flooding is the worst in the city in over a decade. Mumbai residents recalled floods in 2005 tha led to the deaths of more than 500 people across the city.

Emergency services in the city had been overwhelmed, with many emergency personnel themselves being stranded because of the floods. Health authorities were worried as flood waters carried sewage and rubbish through the streets.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who heads the Catholic Church in the city, sent out a message to all parishes under Bombay archdiocese to provide food and shelter to affected people. This led to churches and schools in the archdiocese to accept people seeking refuge from floods.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias told Nirmala Carvalho of Crux that the extreme weather conditions stranded many people in the city. “Hence, I have asked all churches and schools and institutions in our archdiocese to offer refugee irrespective of caste and creed,” the cardinal added.

Father Fitzgerald Fernandes, who directs the Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Bandra, said people came to them throughout the August 29 night for food and shelter.

He told that 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,” Father Fernandes added.

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.

St Joseph’s Church in Vikhroli housed over 170 people, after it coordinated with railway officials who directed stranded commuters to the church.

Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) offered food from langars (community kitchen) at several places. Manpreet Singh from the Dadar Gurudwara said around 90 volunteers helped prepare food.

A ten-member team offered food and water to commuters at Badri Mahal, headquarters of the Bohra administration, and the Mahim Memon Hall, too, had made arrangements for people to stay and eat.

Aslam Shaikh from the Mahim Memon Hall said they could accommodate 2,000 and more people.

Father Prakash Rumao, who is based in Vasai, was in Andheri a few hours after the skies were slit open. “I wondered about all the people who wouldn’t be able to get back home, and then I started requesting priests from other parishes and also to spread the word.

More than 300 people took shelter at the Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work, a Catholic institution in southern Mumbai.

Nilesh Doshi, a businessman, and a few of his friends sourced food, packed it, and started handing them over to bedraggled and stranded commuters at Dadar station

Doshi said by evening they were cooking fresh food for everyone who stopped by at a temple. “There is nothing more satisfying than the sight of happy, relieved faces,” he told Mumbai Mirror.

More than 30 volunteers of Leo Club, which has members across the city and Thane, accommodated in their homes people stuck in various parts of the city.

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