Kochi, India — Ouseph Pappachan, a physically challenged farmer in flood-ravaged Kerala, says he and his wife are alive now because of Sr. Regin Mathew.
"I did not feel like living after floods destroyed all I had. But the sister convinced me there is life beyond such personal tragedies," Pappachan told Global Sisters Report. He is Catholic and lives in the Wayanad District of the southern Indian state.
Since 2000, hundreds of depressed farmers in Pappachan's district have taken their own lives, a priest in charge of Kerala relief efforts for the church says. Recent suicides mostly are attributed to flooding woes, but earlier ones have been due to factors like crop failure and debt.
Pappachan was among more than 1 million people who took refuge in relief camps as unprecedented floods battered 12 of Kerala's 14 districts during July and August, overwhelming the region’s dams.
On Nov. 27, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the state legislative assembly that the state incurred an estimated loss of about 310 billion rupees ($4.36 billion) because of the floods.
Incessant rains, pushing water levels above the danger marks, forced Kerala to open 35 of its 58 dams in a frantic move that left no time to evacuate people before the onslaught. Authorities, who were waiting fruitlessly for the monsoons to subside, said the dams were close to bursting and they were left with no other choice. Nearly 2,000 landslides in the hilly districts of Idukki and Wayanad added to the state's misery. The floodwaters damaged 75,000 houses and submerged more than 45,000 hectares, or 111,000 acres, of farmland.