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Quake relief expands

Faith-based disaster response groups were coordinating immediate relief in quake-stricken Asia while simultaneously planning a unified long-term recovery effort.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | October 10, 2005

"The situation is still very chaotic here."

—Shama Mall

Faith-based disaster response groups were coordinating immediate relief in quake-stricken Asia while simultaneously planning a unified long-term recovery effort.

A 7.7-magnitude quake struck Pakistan, India and Afghanistan over the weekend, killing at least 30,000 people. At least 42,000 are injured. The most severe damage - and most of the deaths - are in Pakistan, where government officials are calling it the worst disaster in the country's 58-year history.

At least 2,000 people are also dead in India. Up to four million people may be homeless in the affected countries.

Many faith-based groups are working through the global alliance organization Action by Churches Together. ACT member Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan (CWS P/A) sent food to help 1,600 families in the hardest-hit areas of Pakistan, including Azad Kashmir and North West Frontier Province.

CWS P/A is also chair of the Humanitarian Forum in Pakistan, and forum members were planning a coordination meeting as needs assessments continued. The organization will also assist 15,000 families with relief supplies. CWS P/A plans to work with ecumenical partners to establish medical camps to address survivors' health needs.

"The situation is still very chaotic here," reported Shama Mall, CWS P/A senior program manager from Islamabad. "Right now everyone is focusing on rescue efforts, but those have been made difficult by the heavy rains and hail that hit some of the affected areas.

"Tremors are continuing," Mall added, "so people are afraid to be indoors. Many people are sleeping in their cars or (outdoors)." Some of the areas believed to be worst hit by the quake are still not accessible except by air, due to road damage and mudslides.

CWS has had relief and development operations in Pakistan for more than 25 years.

ACT member Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) is sending a representative to Islamabad to coordinate with both CWS and local partners. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is sending a psychosocial specialist currently serving in Hungary to work with NCA in providing psychosocial care for survivors. PDA is contacting the Gujranwala Theological Seminary in Pakistan to provide female seminary students to serve as translators.

ACT members worldwide were issuing monetary appeals.

Groups and agencies outside of the ACT network were responding as well. Countries worldwide were pledging financial aid and sending medical teams.

Baptist World Aid sent 10 rescue specialists and two rescue dogs to Pakistan from Hungarian Baptist Aid, in Budapest, Hungary. Baptist World Aid and its partners were also planning to send medical teams to meet immediate needs and plan a long-term response.

Teams from Catholic Relief Services also continued to assess damages in the hardest hit regions.

"Continuous tremors and multiple aftershocks are forcing traumatized victims to live outside without shelter," said Jack Norman, CRS country representative for Pakistan. "In addition, the onset of the monsoon season has made critical roads inaccessible and the start of operations arduous. We fear that landslides may soon follow."

CRS reported it is working closely with Islamic Relief and other international non-governmental organizations on the ground.

Worshippers who gathered for daily Ramadan services at mosques around the United States were also urged to lend prayer and donate money to earthquake survivors.

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