Catholic churches in Chennai cancel Christmas to serve flood victims

Catholic Churches in Southern India have cancelled Christmas in order to serve victims of the worst flooding in Chennai for over a century.

An aerial view shows a flooded residential colony in Chennai, IndiaReuters

Churches in Tamil Nadu have cancelled their Christmas celebrations in order to channel the funds into help victims of the flooding.

More than 270 people have been killed across Tamil Nadu and thousands left homeless after the heaviest rainfall in November for 20 years and the wettest December day in a century on December 1 when 12 inches of rain fell. Much of the state is now under eight feet of water caused, according to India's environment ministry, by climate change.

"What is happening in Chennai is the result of what has happened for 150 years in the developed world. That is what has caused 0.8 degrees Celsius temperature rise. And therefore they must now take action more vigorously," India's environment minister Prakash Javdekar told The Hindu Newspaper.

The Catholic Church in Chennai has cancelled festivities and has called churches nationwide to do the same, instead supporting them in their relief work. Cardinal Baselios mar Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India has called for solidarity in response to the tragedy:

"The need of the hour calls us to express solidarity with the flood affected suffering families and communities and to contribute our mite for their relief and rehabilitation."

The flooding is so extreme that the state has effectively been isolated, as the runways at Chennai airport were submerged under five feet of water.

"Normally, this is the time for carols. But this year, all our aprishes are busy with relief work. The suffering of the people is immense," Father S J Antonysamy, vicar general of Madras (Chennai) told The Tablet.