Friday, July 29, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center
MUMBAI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- Flooding caused by India's heaviest rain ever recorded has killed hundreds of people in the slums of the country's commercial capital Mumbai and also destroyed a dozen churches and a bible college there, missionaries said Friday, July 29.
Some reports quoted police as saying that close to 800 people were killed throughout India's western state of Maharashtra, most of them in its capital Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. Other officials said over 500 people died and it was difficult to verify the discrepancies.
The slums, where 5 million of the city's over 15 million people live, were particularly hard hit, said K.P. Yohannan, president of the missionary group Gospel For Asia (GFA), speaking in Mumbai.
"Keep in mind some 5 million people live in makeshift huts with dirt floors in the lower parts" of Mumbai, he said in a statement to BosNewsLife. "It is said that 500 people have already died [here], and the death toll continues to rise. But one political leader I talked to said that no one really knows how many hundreds and hundreds may have died from among the poorest of the poor in the slums."
Adding to anxiety was a stampede late Thursday, July 28, set off by rumors of a dam burst, which killed at least 15 people, including seven children, in a Mumbai shantytown, officials and local media said. More than 25 people were injured in the stampede, which occurred in the Nehru Nagar slum in northern Bombay, said R.R. Patil, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra state.“People died due to false rumors," Patil told The Associated Press (AP) news agency. “Fifteen people have been killed and seven are children.”
GFA, which supports native missionaries, has 28 pastors working in and around the slum areas who were all believed to be safe. "But we have 12 churches in the slums and it looks like all of them were completely washed away," GFA President Yohannan added. It was unclear how many Christians were burried beneath collapsed buildings. "Lots of the believers are in terrible suffering," with some still able to flee to higher grounds.
At the GFA Bible College on the outskirts of the city, which was under four feet (about 1.3 meters) of water, 80 students were reportedly forced to the upper floors. "Hopefully, with the waters beginning to recede, they will be able to leave the building soon. When they do, they will begin to go out and give food and water to the poor and suffering people," GFA President Yohannan explained.
"There is going to be a tremendous amount of suffering without drinking water and food for these people. [It is] pain and suffering that in some ways we cannot even describe. So we are praying that the Lord will give us wisdom as our brothers go about trying to meet the needs of these poor people," he added.
The school's Bible study materials were apparently damaged by the rain and flood, even though most of them were moved to the building's upper floors. "Moving the literature didn't help very much, because the building is old and leaking," GFA added. Classes were suspended for two days because several staff members were not able to walk from their homes to the Bible college because roads were under water.
Tens of thousands of people were stranded in Mumbai with many forced to sleep in their waterlogged cars or on the airport terminal floor, television footage showed. The state-run All India Radio reported 150,000 people stranded in railway stations. GFA's Mumbai leader, Pastor Sam, was reportedly hold up in Pune, about one hour by air from Mumbai, as the Mumbai runway was under water.
"I am deeply pained by this human tragedy and my heart goes out to the bereaved families," said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after flying over the devastated area. "There has been widespread loss to property and civic infrastructure as well. Private property has suffered extensively and I sympathize with those who have been affected," he said in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife News Center.
In a separate incident, ten people were confirmed dead and several were still missing Thursday, July 28, from a massive fire on an oil platform in India's biggest oil field, about 100 miles (160 kilometers), news reports said.
However "like the Tsunami situation, this is another opportunity for us to minister to people who are in need in the name of Jesus and share with them that 'we do this because of Jesus'," said GFA’s Yohannan, who also urged prayers for "millions of people whose lives have been placed in turmoil by the floods, especially for those in the slums."
He stressed he had asked supporters to also pray "for our GFA students, pastors, and church members as they go out and serve others, even in the midst of their own suffering." The flooding comes at a time when US-backed GFA wants to train 100-thousand native missionaries into "the most unreached areas" of Asia. It claims over 14-thousand native missionaries are now serving and planting over 10 churches every day, despite reported persecution of Christians.
In one of the latest incidents last month, 28-year old GFA Pastor Kiran allegedly narrowly survived three hours of beatings from an angry crowd as he tried to preach the Gospel in Northern India. He later went to a local hospital where x-rays revealed internal injuries in his neck, elbow, leg and arm, GFA claimed. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from India)