Christian Relief Organizations React to Indonesian Quake

Shawn McEvoy | | Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Christian Relief Organizations React to Indonesian Quake

While CNN reports that the latest disaster in Indonesia has killed 5,400, with another 6,500 badly injured, Christian aid groups around the world have mobilized to offer assistance to the central Java region, where over 100,000 have been left homeless.

Saturday's 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck before dawn, destroying thousands of homes in the Bantul district in Yogyakarta Province, according to World Vision staff in Indonesia. The province's capital, the heavily populated royal city of Yogyakarta, is some 275 miles ESE of Jakarta on the island of Java. Three days after the quake, authorities were not expecting to uncover more bodies, according to the head of an emergency response team from Malaysia. "The collapsed homes were all so small that anyone who was trapped would have been extracted by their family members," Supt. Abdul Aziz Ahmad told AP.

Power and telephone service remained out for most of the impacted areas and tensions remained high that a nearby active volcano may erupt.

Even so, World Vision relief teams in Jakarta have dispatched emergency supplies to thousands of people left homeless, and are distributing essential items — including blankets, temporary shelter, and clothing — to provide immediate aid to affected children and families. Medical supplies will also be distributed to assist the wounded and support overwhelmed local hospitals. "We expect to reach some 200 families immediately with these initial supplies," says James East, World Vision's Communications Director for Asia, "We're moving very quickly to determine the full extent of the need so we can help the most vulnerable."

Meanwhile, Operation Blessing Indonesia Director Mark McClendon says that, "Hospitals are filled beyond capacity with people lining up outside the doors and stacked in parking lots" in Yogyakarta. In response, Operation Blessing flew in an emergency medical team (17 doctors, 9 nurses and a team of volunteers) to support the overflow of victims at surrounding hospitals.

McClendon calls the scene "surreal… crumbled buildings are alongside untouched buildings, with virtually everyone standing and sitting outside, afraid to go inside any building. Survivors are terrified of another quake and feel safer under the sky rather than a roof… Compound fractures with bones protruding from crushed limbs are the most common injury. Doctors are walking from patient to patient treating as many as they can."

"Our immediate focus as first-responders is to provide support to overworked hospitals and go to outlying areas to treat critically injured patients," states Bill Horan, Operation Blessing President. A convoy of trucks transporting medicines and medical supplies, including three Operation Blessing ambulances, are en route to the devastated area.

From the outset, local Catholic parishes and staff from member organizations of Caritas Internationalis began assisting victims of the earthquake with temporary shelter, first aid, and emergency food and non-food assistance. Seven Catholic hospitals in the area have been treating the injured, while outreach teams of doctors and nurses have provided medical assistance to people in more remote areas. The national office of the Catholic Health Commission ‘Perdhaki’ has also arranged for more doctors and nurses to be sent to Yogyakarta from Catholic hospitals in Jakarta and Bandung.

In addition, The Salvation Army has a number of experienced emergency response teams in Indonesia, known as "Compassion in Action" units. The Army's medical team based in Semarang is establishing a medical/health tent in Bantul village.

A Church World Service Indonesia emergency team is currently assessing needs in six other sub-districts in Bantul district: Sabdodadi, Jetis, Plered, Imogiri, Sewon, and Kasihan. Two tons of family tents, Health Kits, and CWS Blankets were scheduled to arrive Monday from the CWS warehouse in Medan, North Sumatra; and, 11 more tons of emergency supplies will follow shortly. CWS is also in coordination with its partners to help meet needs in affected parts of Klaten and Boyolali.

Reuters News Service reports Saturday’s earthquake was the third major tremor to devastate Indonesia in 18 months, the worst being the quake and resulting tsunami on Dec. 26, 2004 which left some 170,000 people dead or missing.

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