Local relief agencies act to aid Indonesia

Resources and money going to site of quake

May 30, 2006|By GINA DAVIS | GINA DAVIS,SUN REPORTER

As the death toll from a weekend earthquake in central Indonesia topped 5,000 yesterday, local relief agencies began dispatching people, resources and money to the devastated central Java island.

The 6.3-magnitude earthquake, which struck the densely populated area early Saturday, also left thousands injured and hundreds of thousands homeless.

Catholic Relief Services, based in Baltimore, is part of a $1.2 million response with the Caritas network and other Catholic agencies to help the region respond to immediate health concerns and long-term housing needs, the organization announced yesterday.

In addition to the financial commitment, a small team of relief workers in Yogyakarta - the closest major city to the earthquake site - is working with local partners to assess the area's needs. Additional emergency relief teams from Baltimore are expected to arrive today to help set up relief camps, said Sean Callahan, vice president of overseas operations for Catholic Relief Services.

Callahan said the region will need long-term assistance, and it is likely that Catholic Relief Services eventually will commit tens of millions of dollars to the region's recovery.

Pat Johns, director of emergency operations for Catholic Relief Services, said he is headed to the region today to help assess needs.

"Each [disaster] brings its own challenges," Johns said. "In Yogyakarta, the main challenge is that Java is a heavily populated island of about 140 million people. ... Any disaster that hits Java is going to affect a large number of people."

The area has one of the highest population densities in the world, he said.

Callahan said the relief agency concentrates its efforts in three phases: immediate/emergency aid such as shelter, food, water and hygiene kits; surveying the disaster site and working with local government on needs such as tents and longer-term housing, trauma counseling and arranging for schooling; and reconstruction and recovery, such as housing construction and helping people get back to work.

Lutheran World Relief, also based in Baltimore, has made an initial $25,000 commitment to earthquake relief and is working with its partners in Action by Churches Together, a global network of churches and faith-based aid agencies, to assist survivors, spokeswoman Emily Sollie said.

"Those funds will go to local partners, and we'll be assessing whether there is more need as the effort goes forward," Sollie said.

Lutheran World Relief's initial response has included distribution of food and nonfood items as well as emergency medical assistance, she said.

gina.davis@baltsun.com

To contribute

Catholic Relief Services

P.O. Box 17090

Baltimore 21203-7090

Memo line: Indonesia Earthquake

Phone: 877-HELP-CRS

Web: www.crs.org

Lutheran World Relief - Indonesia Earthquake

P.O. Box 17061

Baltimore 21298-9832

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