May 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 86
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


    ROME (CWNews.com/Fides) - Flooding on the Amazon River in Brazil has left 20,000 homeless and five people, including a four-year-old boy, dead following months of unprecedented rains. Aid workers in the Brazilian town of Laranjal do Jari, at the mouth of the Amazon River have issued a desperate plea for help.

    As world media concentrated on Brazil's celebrations marking the 500th anniversary since its discovery by Europeans and discussions about past violence against the native Indians, little attention has been paid to the gravity of the disaster which struck right in the Amazon region, the Indians' homeland.

    Laranjal do Jari (Amapa) has a population of about 50,000, half living in riverside dwellings along the Amazon, which because of torrential rainfall rose by over 2 meters, flooding the poor homesteads and destroying the caboclos (homes of Indians who move to towns). The flooding began before Easter and the water level still continues to rise.

    Father Aleandro Castrese, PIME, who has served in Brazil for the past five years, said he has no idea what to do: "Thousands have lost everything, they have no food. Our churches, at some distance from the waterfront, are now havens for hundreds of flood victims." Father Castrese spent Holy Week celebrating the various rites in the different churches and using his jeep to carry people to safety on higher ground. He himself is convalescing from a road accident in which he fractured a leg.

    Because of the high water level, roads are flooded and even the jeep cannot pass. People are moved using fragile boats. Homes, churches, shops, and discos are used as night time refuges.

    "The most edifying thing is the generous hospitality among the people," the missionary said. "Those with a safe home readily take in others, the poor help the poor. And all this while the political leaders discuss matters of responsibility, thinking of the electoral gains assistance may bring."

    Meanwhile Father Castrese and another priest are nailing wooden planks to the floor to raise it: the water is ankle-level but could rise. "In the future, homes and churches must be built much higher, and of more resistant wood: most of our chapels rot in the water. But at the moment food and clothing are the priority: these people have lost everything," he said.

    Fides, the news service of the Vatican's Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, has set up a mail drop for charitable donations to assist the afflicted. Aid or funds, marked "Amazon Floods," can be sent to: Fides International Agency
Via di Propaganda l/c
00187 Rome


May 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 86

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