Parishioners in Myanmar need food, shelter

MONG LIN, Myanmar -- Parishioners, the parish priest and nuns from a parish badly damaged in the late-March earthquake say they are in urgent need of food and shelter.

Fr. Anthony Paul, priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, told the Asian church news agency UCA News March 30 that "not only our people living in the church compound but those who have lost their houses are sleeping in makeshift tents without roofs as the roof thatches are very hard to get."

It is unusually cold and rains every day like the rainy season, he said.

"I do really worry for the health of the victims as they have to sleep in unsafe tents," he said.

"What we really need at the moment are food and shelter," said Charity Sister Natalina Misa, whose convent is in the Mong Ling parish.

Sister Natalina said all the shops were destroyed by the magnitude 6.8 quake March 24, and people could not buy food. Makeshift tents are not windproof or rainproof, so victims risk health problems in the near future, she said.

Parishioner Susana Khin Mar Oo said she had received some food, kitchen wares, blankets and medications from some aid groups and private local donors.

Most of the villagers -- victims and nonvictims -- were afraid to enter buildings in case of another quake, she added.

Father Paul said cleaning up the damaged church also was challenging the parishioners.

"About 25 volunteers came on the first day, and then 50, and today about 100 volunteers came for help to clean up the compound. It may take more days as we can use only manual labor and were unable to use machines," Father Paul told UCA News March 29.

On March 27, parishioners attended Mass in the chapel at the Sisters of Charity convent.

Father Paul said the church, boarding house, the old clergy house, dining structure for the boarding students, church bells and the compound wall were badly damaged during the earthquake.

Two boys living in the compound were found dead under the collapsed building.

The priest said that although those living along main roads and in areas with good communication usually get help from aid groups, the parish is remote, so "only our friends and relatives who really know our situation came" to help.

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