Thai Church providing aid to flood vicitms
» 10/26/2011 13:58
by Weena Kowitwanij
Bishops, priests, nuns and lay people are collecting and handing out food, water purifiers and camping material. The population is stressed out but examples of solidarity abound without distinction of creed or wealth. Manufacturing loses billions of dollars as 1.4 million hectares of farmland is wiped out.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Through Caritas and its Refugee and Emergency Commission, the Thai Catholic Church has launched a plan to help flood victims in the provinces and the capital. Bishops, priests, nuns and lay people, young and old, have joined various initiatives, collecting basic items, food, water purifiers and camping material for the displaced. Tensions and apprehension are rising among the people, fed by the lack of news about developments. At the same time though, there have been examples of solidarity and cooperation amid the rising waters. “I am happy to see people from different communities, professions and religions working together to bring help,” Komas Chungsathiansap told AsiaNews.
Mgr Joseph Phibun Visitnonthachai, president of Caritas Thailand, from the diocese of Nakhon Sawan, sent rescue teams to the regions affected by the worst floods in 50 years.
Mgr Giovanni D’Aniello, apostolic nuncio to Thailand, had come to the area on 24 September, bringing the pope’s comfort as well as a donation of US$ 50,000 allocated by Benedict XVI through the ‘Cor Unum’ Council.
Ten lorries carrying aid and a group of volunteers from Caritas Thailand visited different pars of the flood-affected regions to organise relief operations. In one parish of only 15 families, everyone received basic aid.
Fr Rangsipol Pleanphan, a priest and activist in the diocese of Nakhon Sawan, in the northern part of the country, called on people to help 250 local families affected by the floods and in need of help and shelter.
On several occasions, Catholic volunteers and members of humanitarian organisations have noted the climate of solidarity and help that has developed in the population. Still, a high level of stress and fear for the future remains. Flood victims want to “bear their trial patiently and return to normal as soon as possible.” Mutual help among residents irrespective of social, religious or professional background keeps the flame of hope burning.
The Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC) said that six districts in the capital remain under flood watch as the death toll and damage count are constantly updated.
The floods in the north, northeast and centre of Thailand have killed at least 366 people since mid-July and disrupted the lives of nearly 2.5 million, with almost 120,000 in shelters and 720,000 people seeking medical attention.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra warned that the emergency could last another month, with the possibility that it might stretch into two. Central Bangkok, a metropolis of some 12 million people, could be covered by as much as a metre of water.
Agriculture and manufacturing continue to see flood-related damages rise. Flooding has forced the closure of seven industrial estates in Ayutthaya, Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani provinces bordering Bangkok, causing billions of dollars of damage, disrupting international supply chains for industry and putting about 650,000 people temporarily out of work.
The floods may have also wiped out as much as 14 per cent of rice fields. As tropical storms inundated 62 of 77 provinces, they destroyed 1.4 million hectares of farmland.