Sri Lanka (MNN/GFA) ― A week of powerful storms brought heavy rain across Sri Lanka and massive flooding. Over a half million people are homeless as a result.
Torrential rains inundated the island for more than a week. Meteorologists say Cyclone Laila, which recently blasted the Bay of Bengal, intensified these pre-monsoon rainstorms. While Cyclone Laila spared Sri Lanka, it is blamed for 16 deaths in India.
Gospel For Asia President Dr. K.P. Yohannan says it brings images of the 2004 tsunami to mind. "There was no warning at all. The situation is described as the tsunami situation. There's no end to the need."
Yohannan got that report on the situation from Lal Vanderwal, GFA's country leader in Sri Lanka, who reports that entire villages are underwater.
Sri Lanka's Disaster Management Center reports that more than 600,000 people were displaced by the flooding. Many of those affected are the poorest of the poor who live in low-lying areas and shanty-type structures, which have no chance against the brutal force of the driving rain or the fast-moving floodwater.
GFA Compassion Services teams are already providing for emergency needs. Yohanan says, "The government official came to our people and said, 'Please do what you can at this time. The need is so great.'"
The teams mobilized out of the more than 100 Sri Lankan churches led by Gospel for Asia-supported missionaries. The first wave of response includes taking care of immediate food, shelter and clothing needs. They are already distributing food packets containing rice, lentil beans, sugar, milk, potatoes, dried fish, crackers, salt and soap.
The second wave will be recovery.
The storms undid all the progress made since the tsunami destroyed the nation. "We worked with the Texas Baptists cleaning the wells for water after the tsunami," says Yohannan. "Now, almost every well that was cleaned [is] now again flooded, completely gone. So we have to start all over again."
Later, they will rebuild homes and restore items needed for the people to maintain their livelihood. GFA-supported missionaries also need to assess the damages to their own churches and to the dozens of Bridge of Hope Centers on the island.
Despite the destruction, there's still so much hope. Yohannan explains, "For us, it is a huge opportunity to express Christ's love and tell them that we care, that Jesus cares about them, and share the Gospel with those who are in need."
There's a lot to do. Just as it took years to recover from the Asian tsunami of 2004, it will take time to heal the scars with this disaster. GFA needs help both financially and in prayer.