India: Christmas cancelled in Chennai after floods devastate region

Residents watch from their partially flooded houses at a neighbourhood in Chennai, India.Reuters

The head of the Church of South India has urged churches to cancel Christmas this year because of the devastating floods that have struck the region, according to Anglican Ink.

The floods were caused by heavy rainfall in November and December, thought to be the result of the El Nino phenomenon, and have affected the Coromandel Coast of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The waters have driven 1.8 million people from their homes and left 450 dead. The city of Chennai – formerly Madras – has been particularly hard-hit, with the floods counted as the worst in living memory. On one day it received 500 mm of rain.

In a letter dated December 8, 2015, Rev Govada Dyvasirvadam, moderator of the CSI and bishop in charge in Chennai, said that because of the suffering caused by the rains it was "appropriate to cancel all exuberant celebration and focus on life affirming activities" to assist the poor.

He asked all clergy to donate one day's salary towards relief work and asked that carol services and Christmas pageants be cancelled.

While the monsoon rainfall in the region was exceptionally heavy, authorities are facing criticism for their response to the crisis. Huge quantities of water were released from overflowing reservoirs, which added to the city's problems. Rescue and recovery services were overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.