Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Monday, 5 October 2009 17:50 UK

India floods: 'Misery everywhere'

Father Eric Mathias, a Jesuit priest in India's Karnataka state, has spent the past few days trying to help people affected by severe flooding there. He describes the plight of villagers who lost everything to the floods.

Flood affected people in India
Father Eric Mathias: People are starving

The village of Pannur is going through one of the worst disasters in decades. There's misery everywhere.

Intermittent rains over the past four days resulted in floods drowning the area around the church. The surrounding houses have been damaged beyond repair and some of them have collapsed.

The pastor of the Pannur parish was in a helpless situation. He could not get out of his house, where he was trapped by waters 10 feet high.

He could come out after two and a half days after the waters receded. People living around the church area had run away to save themselves and their families.

The worst thing when you are surrounded by water is the danger of snakes

All 212 houses in Pannur have been heavily damaged. Most people are staying on the road. We could only accommodate about 200 people in our medical centre, which is on a higher ground.

The waters came during the night causing panic all round. People rushed out carrying whatever they could to a less dangerous area. Many have lost most of their possessions.

The plight of women and children is particularly bad because of lack of clothes and food.

One woman gave birth in this tense situation, out on a country road. Luckily, it went fine and she and the baby are both well.

The worst thing when you are surrounded by water is the danger of snakes. Five people have already been bitten by cobras - one woman is in a serious condition.

No help

Pannur has been completely cut off from the world in the past two days. We have no electricity, no drinking water, no food and no proper shelter for our people.

Until today no government agency has approached us with a programme of relief. The nearest village - Hulugucnhi - is entirely under water. All 55 houses are submerged in water. People are waiting on higher ground. They are starving.

In another village 300 buffaloes died and three men are missing. Several other villages that are close to the river bank are submerged in water.

These are mostly Dalit [low-caste Hindu, formerly "untouchable"] villages. This is the plight of the Dalits in their struggle for survival. People say the government will promise money for the rebuilding work, but the money won't reach them, as has happened during previous floods.

The class system is deeply rooted in these remote areas. No government official has ever visited these villages.

People are really worried. They say government won't do anything for them. They know it in their heart. They are asking us to do something. But we can't undertake such massive building work, we can only give them food and clothes.

Print Sponsor

Flood affects thousands in India
03 Aug 09 |  South Asia
India flood victims still suffering
09 Jan 09 |  South Asia
Flood victims face caste discrimination
12 Sep 08 |  South Asia
'Towns and villages have drowned'
02 Sep 08 |  South Asia
Uncertainty in India flood camp
31 Aug 08 |  South Asia
New flood relief efforts in Bihar
31 Aug 08 |  South Asia
Capsize in India floods kills 20
30 Aug 08 |  South Asia

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific