India struggles with 100-year floods in Chennai

By December 4, 2015
(Photo courtesy Mission India)

(Photo courtesy Mission India)

India (MNN) — Daily downpours threaten to worsen the already severe flooding situation around Chennai, India, into early next week after the city endured its wettest December day in more than 100 years of record-keeping.

Lindsay Ackerman is a spokesperson for Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India. First, she notes, “This area has 70 million people living here, so this has a huge impact on daily life in this particular area of India.” Then she adds, “They’re continuing to predict more rain in the days ahead, so the situation happening right now with the flooding is already a problem and will continue to grow as a problem.”

Rain-weary southern India is definitely in need of a dry spell. Rainfall has been relentless across southern India since early November. Although it is monsoon season, the El Nino weather pattern has made it one of the wettest Novembers in more than two decades. “The rain has come down so fast and has not had any break in the rain. There’s really nowhere for the water to go,” explains Ackerman. To get an idea of how high the water has risen, she says, “They’ve literally had to close the airports, and they’ve had photos showing the water going all the way up to the belly of the airplane.” Authorities hope they can reopen the airports on Sunday, December 6.

Chennai used to be able to weather this kind of deluge, but recent urban development has literally changed the landscape. When over 40 inches of rain fell last month–more than 300% of the normal monthly rainfall, water quickly overwhelmed the drainage system. December didn’t start out much better, with 12 inches of rain falling in Chennai on the first day of the month.

(Screen capture courtesy Mission India via FB)

(Screen capture courtesy Mission India via FB)

Hundreds are now confirmed dead, thousands are homeless, and many more are left stranded as a result of caved-in roads and major transportation closures.  That became a problem for the poorer areas, where homes are built out of clay, says Ackerman. “When it rains like this, their houses start to melt away. We’ve had reports from partners who have had roofs that have collapsed. Churches: their worship centers have had walls that have just been completely collapsed because the rain has soaked into the clay walls and caused it to collapse.”

In the midst of disaster, locals, military troops, and ministries are working to provide essentials to those affected by the severe flooding. Ackerman says, “We’ve heard reports from some of our Children’s Bible Club partners that the villages where they are had no power and also no clean water. We also had a report from one of our literacy partners who has been helping the needy in her area, trying to provide food and clothing.”

Many of the residents living where their literacy partner is responding are in refugee camps and schools. Says Ackerman, their partner has been working with her network to get the supplies needed to help, while at the same time coping with her own losses. “They’re doing their best to reach out and minister the love of Christ to these physical needs. We would love it if people would pray that these types of reaching out will also help open doors for people to share the Gospel as well.”

Here’s how the flooding has affected other ministry partners:

*Damik is a church leader. Worship at his church has been at a standstill due to flooding. One of his church members, Raj, passed away in the floods. Raj is remembered as a passionate believer and prayer warrior. Pray for God’s comfort for Raj’s family.  Damik asks for your prayers that the water recedes.

*An 8-year-old girl named Sathamma attends a Bible Club in south India. Her house collapsed due to the high waters. Her family’s clothes, books, and everything else are underwater. They have taken shelter in a local school.

(Screen capture courtesy Mission India via FB)

(Screen capture courtesy Mission India via FB)

Their stories are not isolated ones. They’re repeated thousands of times over. While Mission India isn’t a humanitarian aid agency, Ackerman says we need to be praying for the ministry team in Tamil Nadu state. “This is their time to be strengthened by God, to help strengthen their communities. That is what will help India continue to be strong in the future as well, when India’s believers are able to be equipped to be the light of Christ.”

For now, the immediate emergency is being dealt with. The future one? “These are partners who are committed to the communities where they are ministering. After these rains subside and the flooding subsides, our partners are going to continue to be right in the community,and they’re going to be positioned to reach out to those who have been impacted by this flooding.” Click here for details of the ministry’s various emphases.

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