by Father Blany Pinto for BISMumbai

People in Lonavla are still reeling under the impact of COVID-19 and yet another catastrophe hit them. On 03 June Lonavla experienced a severe cyclone. The cyclone was so severe that many trees were uprooted and electric poles were razed to the ground. Lonavla was in total darkness for 03 days and 03 nights. The municipal authorities did not have the manpower to restore electricity and hence requested Pune for help. Daily, a certain section of Lonavla received electricity. Electricity was restored to Don Bosco Lonavla and the houses in the vicinity after a week. The internet wires too were destroyed and the net connections were restored after 10 days.

The destruction in the town was bad; one can imagine the extent of the destruction in the villages. Nearly all the houses in the villages have asbestos or straw roofs. Under the impact of the cyclone, the roofs were blown off and some houses were completely razed to the ground. The villages which Don Bosco Lonavla was taking care of in coordination with others during the COVID-19 needed more assistance than just food provision kits. Sonali Shelke and Ravi Shelke, DBLonavla social outreach staff took stock of the situation with their visits and made a note of the number of houses which need urgent help.

On 08 June, 66 families in 04 villages – Fanasrai, Vanati, Udyavadi and Rajmachi received 66 solar lamps and 500 asbestos sheets. A group from Pune, ‘Feed the Need’ headed by Gavri Palke and Rajendra Gadgil, financed and coordinated the entire operations, with Father Roque Green, Parish Priest at St. Anthony, Pune and his team comprising Punya Kumar, Mary Francis, Gitanjali Rai and Assumption George. On 11 June, a visit was made to Fansarai to check the progress of the 'well' work. This involves cleaning of the well to harvest rain water, constructing the wall around the well and covering the well so that water remains clean. is underway. This project which is underway is financed and supervised by Father Green's team.

Meanwhile, Unita Doulton and her team distributed 260 plastic sheets in 10 villages- Vaksai, Karandoli, Vergaon, Mundhaware, Karla, Sadapur, Sinhagad village, Avandhe and hill top Katkar Vasti – to cover their house-roofs which were in a bad state due to the cyclone. On 18 June, Father Green, his team, and the Don Bosco social staff, visited Fanasrai to check the progress of the work. The ladies from the team spent time with the women educating them to cleanliness and hygiene. They later gathered the children and spent time with them teaching and provided them sheets with outline sketches to colour. Raincoats were also distributed to all the children of the village.

Sonali Shelke and Ravi Shelke visited a village 40 kms away from the town. This village is very badly affected. The sarpanch was contacted and a survey conducted. ‘Feed the Need’ from Pune were also contacted and their assistance sought. The group has promptly assisted with 375 asbestos sheets, solar panel and lamps for the 07 villages in this area.