Toll mounting due to Cyclone Aila

By May 29, 2009

India (MNN) — Cyclone Aila (eye-la)
has displaced millions of people in India and Bangladesh. The storm pounded the
Bay of Bengal earlier this week and did its worst damage in the flooding and
mudslides that followed the onslaught.

Gospel For
Asia
President KP Yohannan says their
West Bengal headquarters has become a makeshift shelter for cyclone Aila
victims.

"At least 13 islands have been
devastated by the cyclone," a GFA correspondent wrote, describing the scene.
"Each island is filled with salt water, and people find it difficult to find
fresh water to drink. 

Yohannan added, "Some 2,000 mud
and thatched homes were completely washed away, and some 40,000 people
stranded. We have 32 churches on those islands, so a lot of them are
damaged." 

He's concerned about a second wave
of disaster is expected to take its toll through starvation and disease.
"The help is getting there very slowly.  People are stranded, and
dozens of bridges were completely washed away; roads are gone." 

The country of Bangladesh and its
neighbor, the state of West Bengal, India, were the hardest hit. Bangladesh is
one of the world's poorest nations with 156 million residents. West Bengal is
home to more than 81 million people, including an estimated 5 million illegal
immigrants from Bangladesh.

In one area, every child who attends
a GFA Bridge of Hope center is now homeless because of the storm. The parents,
most of whom make their living through subsistence farming and other
agricultural pursuits, are at a loss.

"Children are crying without proper
food, and parents have lost hope. They look at the sky and weep. We can give no
answer when they ask us with tears, ‘Where will we go now? We have no home, no
cattle, no fields . . .'" the correspondent wrote.

"It is our God-given
opportunity to respond to this suffering and demonstrate Christ's love,"
Yohannan declared. Nearly 400 families who attend churches led by GFA-supported
missionaries lost their homes in the storm.  

He says, "We have church
members and missionaries working non-stop bringing food, drinking water,
blankets and cooking vessels, kerosene stoves, clothes and shelter–whatever
they can, and ministering to people at this time." 

However, Calcutta fared little
better, notes Yohannan. "This is one of the worst cyclones to hit
Calcutta," he explained. "The entire city is paralyzed because of
fallen trees and traffic jams that have followed. The army has been called out
to help."

The situation feels especially
urgent because the effected region was barely recovered from the wrath of
Cyclone Sidr two years ago. Entire villages were flooded with saline water, and
both boats and homes have been destroyed.

Government authorities are calling
the situation "desperate" and fear that salt water brought in by
storm surges after the cyclone will contaminate the fresh water that is needed
for farming. Farmers in the area have lost much of their rice crop, which was
at the brink of harvest.

Pray for the families who lost loved
ones in this tragedy. Pray too, for the people who are still stranded
throughout the region. Finally, ask God to guard the pastors and missionaries
so they will be able to access those regions, bring relief, and share God's
love with the hurting. The team also needs funds for the supplies. If you can
help GFA, click here.

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