As the century's worst floods ravaged Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in July, Indian churches and international Christian aid agencies, despite their own losses, have responded quickly.

The floods, prompted by a sudden 26 inches of rain, have devastated large portions of the western state of Maharashtra. The disaster killed 1,050 people, who were drowned or buried in landslides. Another 224 so far have succumbed to diseases such as cholera, jaundice, and malaria. More than 8,000 people are being treated. More than 283,000 houses were destroyed and 16,000 villages damaged. The Mumbai Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates $888 million in losses.

"It was shocking," said Rocky Banz, director of the Center for Social Action, Archdiocese of Bombay. "Every individual was affected. Some of our schools and churches were badly hit. We are assessing the losses. About 10 to 15 members of Catholic churches lost their lives."

Slum areas of Mumbai, India's financial hub, were hit hard. Gospel for Asia (GFA) reports that 12 of its churches in the slums were washed away, its Bible college damaged, and Christian literature destroyed. Sam Selwine of the indigenous umbrella group Church's Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA), told CT, "Many of the Christian families living in the slums have lost everything."

Authorities fear an outbreak of disease due to inadequate sanitation. "In every home in the slums three to four people are sick while the government is trying to play down the figures," Selwine said.

World Vision, CASA, Caritas, Hopegivers International, GFA, and the Salvation Army are providing relief to the poor, most of whom had lived in little makeshift huts. Local churches are also involved. Church-based groups are the main hope for many poor people in Mumbai, Selwine said.

"A day after the floods, I felt challenged when an old lady, a victim of floods, asked me, 'Where has the church gone?' This is the challenge I had in my mind while we all worked hard all these days. And I think the church has responded well."

In the first three days of the floods, CASA provided meals to 30,000 people. It is providing food, water, clothing, and cooking utensils to about 10,000 families. The agency is focusing on helping the Dalits (formerly known as untouchables).

"All denominations came together and helped," Selwine said. "Our strategy is to work through the local churches and give priority to the poor and the marginalized."

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Related Elsewhere:

News elsewhere includes:

Mumbai flood dampens tourism sector hopes | The unprecedented deluge in Mumbai has hit the earnings of the tourism industry. Tourist inflow into India in August decelerated sharply to the year's low of 6.9%, against a robust growth of 28.6% during the corresponding month last year. The earnings in dollar also slipped to 10.6%, against 40% in August 2004. (Financial Express, India, Sep 6, 2005)
BJP agitates against tardy relief for Mumbai flood victims | The BJP on Monday took to the streets in Mumbai to protest against the alleged failure of the government to effectively carry out relief and rehabilitation in the financial capital. (, September 05, 2005)
Building collapse raises Mumbai flood toll | Five people have been killed by a building collapse in India's biggest city, Mumbai, which is the third such collapse in the city in the past 10 days. (ABC News Online, Australia, August 29, 2005)
Mumbai flood diseases kill 46 | Waterborne diseases killed at least 46 people in Mumbai in the past four days following floods that crippled western India last month, officials have said. (Associated Press, August 12, 2005)

More CT coverage of India includes:

Cover Story
India Undaunted | Escalating repression can't seem to dampen the church's growth. (April 28, 2004)
Christian Dalits Fight Bias | Seek benefits withheld by government. (July 5, 2005)
Indian Court Commutes Death Penalty for Staineses' Murderer | Christians worried as attacks continue with little interference from the government. (May 25, 2005)
Hindu Radical Redux | Church leaders report more than 200 new incidents of persecution. (April 15, 2005)
Christians Fear Some Backlash After India Elections | Still, they're heartened by voters' chastening of nationalist Hindus. (June 15, 2004)
India's Historic Elections and the Hand of God | Persecution will continue, but without as much implicit state support, says the president of the All India Christian Council. (May 14, 2004)
Indian Churches Hail the Defeat of Hindu-Nationalist Government | "Vote consciously" campaign urged Christian voters to elect secular political parties. (May 14, 2004)
The Immense Commission | Most postal areas still don't have any Christian workers living in them. (April 28, 2004)
Watch Those Web Postings | What Indians say American Christians should, and shouldn't, do to help. (April 28, 2004)
Blockbuster Evangelism | Millions have been converted after seeing films about Jesus, and Hindu radicals are responding with violence. (Nov. 26, 2003)

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