ASIA/THAILAND - Priests, religious and lay Catholics in Surat Thani diocese work with rescue and aid team to help tsunami survivors

Monday, 3 January 2005

Bangkok (Fides Service) - The local Church in Thailand has joined rescue and aid workers to help victims of the December 26 disaster. The newly appointed Salesian Bishop of Surat Thani diocese Joseph Prathan has opened an aid centre which works in co-operation with government offices and humanitarian agencies. The Thai provinces affected by the tsunami are all in his diocese. Priests, religious and lay Catholics from all over the country are helping rescue and aid workers to assist the injured and homeless people.
In Krabi, for example the Salesians have offered their church as shelter for numerous families whose homes were destroyed are severely damaged. In Puket, Salesians are distributing water, food, clothing, shoes and other necessities.
According to the Salesian news service ANS the new Salesian inspector in Thailand, Rev. Theparat Pitisant said “every day more bodies are discovered and the number of dead rises. Fortunately none of our members were killed. We are working with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a congregation founded by the Salesians, at first aid centres going every day to a different area.”. Bishop Prathan says that sufficient consumer goods have arrived and now what is needed is money and building materials. During a visit to the affected area Bishop Prathan discovered a village apparently overlooked by aid agencies and he promised to a contribution towards rebuilding the school and homes.
He told a dramatic story: “I was walking among the dead. I saw at least a thousand corpses. They are being transported as quickly as possible to Buddhist temples now vast mortuaries”.
Surat Thani diocese is planning to help small villages not included on tourist paths. The tsunami affected 6 provinces in south Thailand, Puket, Phang Nga, Krabi, Trang, Ranong, Satun, situated about 1,000 km from the capital Bangkok. The Salesian Fathers mainly on the opposite coast of the country have mission posts in the affected area. Other communities in the disaster zone such as the Stigmata Fathers and Sisters Handmaids of the Immaculate Heart of Mary also reported that none of their people were among the dead but material damage is serious. The area is popular with tourists and tourism employs many local people and this is the height of the season.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 3/1/2005 righe 34 parole 367)