As the century's worst floods ravaged Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in July, Indian churches and international Christian aid agencies, despite their own losses, have responded quickly.

The floods, prompted by a sudden 26 inches of rain, have devastated large portions of the western state of Maharashtra. The disaster killed 1,050 people, who were drowned or buried in landslides. Another 224 so far have succumbed to diseases such as cholera, jaundice, and malaria. More than 8,000 people are being treated. More than 283,000 houses were destroyed and 16,000 villages damaged. The Mumbai Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates $888 million in losses.

"It was shocking," said Rocky Banz, director of the Center for Social Action, Archdiocese of Bombay. "Every individual was affected. Some of our schools and churches were badly hit. We are assessing the losses. About 10 to 15 members of Catholic churches lost their lives."

Slum areas of Mumbai, India's financial hub, were hit hard. Gospel for Asia (GFA) reports that 12 of its churches in the slums were washed away, its Bible college damaged, and Christian literature destroyed. Sam Selwine of the indigenous umbrella group Church's Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA), told CT, "Many of the Christian families living in the slums have lost everything."

Authorities fear an outbreak of disease due to inadequate sanitation. "In every home in the slums three to four people are sick while the government is trying to play down the figures," Selwine said.

World Vision, CASA, Caritas, Hopegivers International, GFA, and the Salvation Army are providing relief to the poor, most of whom had lived in little makeshift huts. Local churches are also involved. Church-based groups are the main hope for many poor ...

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