A car damaged by Cyclone Thane. More than 300,000 houses were damaged and people were evacuated from low-lying coastal areas to state-run relief camps. Credit: Caritas India

Caritas India is helping people whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by a severe cyclone that struck southern India in late December 2011. With a wind speed of 140km per hour, Cyclone Thane pummelled the Tamil Nadu coast and the area of Pondicherry on 30 December. Heavy rains and tidal waves as high as 7m flooded villages. Powerful winds swept away roofs or whole houses.

“The storm created havoc,” says Ambrose Christy, zonal manager for Caritas India. “Over 45 people are reported to be dead and thousands of huts and small houses have collapsed.”

More than 300,000 houses were damaged and people were evacuated from low-lying coastal areas to state-run relief camps. Roads were also damaged, with uprooted trees and electric posts strewn across streets. Electricity, water supplies, and communication lines were cut off. Livestock were killed, and crops like sugar and rice were destroyed.

Caritas India is working with dioceses to help thousands of families in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. In early January, diocesan workers began providing cooked food as well as dry rations. Caritas India’s partners organised community kitchens for immediate nutritional needs. In the coming days, Caritas will distribute kits containing food, hygiene items, blankets, and candles.

Caritas plans to help 4000 families rebuild or repair their cyclone-damaged houses, distributing shelter construction materials. For people who lost their source of income because of the cyclone, Caritas will run a Cash for Work programme, paying impoverished villagers for their labour.