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Father Lawrence Almeida

'I am happy to have saved the lives of so many children'

Like a thousand other people in Mumbai, Father Lawrence Almeida would like to forget July 26, 2005.

The head of the Holy Cross High School in Dahisar, northwest Mumbai, along with other members of staff, remembers trying to shift about 200 children to safety that day, water constantly gushing into the premises. "I have never been so scared," he recalls. "I prayed hard for their safety. God answered and they were rescued."

Everyone pitched in -- from teachers and maids, to youth and passers-by. Taking stock of losses the church suffered, however, was as difficult.

"We lost two computers, a refrigerator, furniture, important documents, clothing -- virtually everything the church and school possessed," he says. Picking up the threads still occupies most of his time today, over two months on.

That hasn't stopped the priest from providing relief to nearby slums though, in collaboration with students of the Nirmal Niketan Social Service College. Things managed to get back to normal a week after the deluge, thanks to volunteers who helped clean up and set things straight.

"Material losses don't matter," says Father Almeida. "I am happy to have saved the lives of so many children."

His main concern is a child who was traumatised by the event. Now, every time it rains heavily, she begins to cry uncontrollably...

Photographs: Jewella C Miranda | Design: Uday Kuckian | Text: Indrani Roy Mitra

Also see: Why the Deshmukh govt failed

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