As distressed survivors of the magnitude-6.3 quake in Indonesia search through the rubble for their relatives, Christian groups are rushing to the scene offering aid and comfort in the midst of despair and anguish.
Said to be Indonesia’s worst disaster since the 2004 9.1 magnitude quake-tsunami that claimed some 223,000 lives, the massive temblor early Saturday morning has claimed more than 3,700 people on Java Island – with numbers quickly rising.
"Local Churches and Church buildings are already housing affected people and we have staff from our Caritas in Indonesia as well as from Caritas members of Netherlands, Germany and USA in the area," reported Caritas Internationalis Secretary General, Duncan MacLaren. "The seven Catholic hospitals in the Province have opened their doors and we are preparing to help as much as we can."
The quake flattened nearly all the buildings in the rice-farming town at 5:54 a.m. local time while residents slept and is thought to have triggered a nearby volcano although officials could not confirm the cause for the volcano’s activity. The worst damage was felt by the town of Bantul, where 80 percent of the homes were destroyed and more than 2,400 people killed, reported The Associated Press on Sunday. It is estimated that two thirds of the fatalities are attributed to residents of Bantul.
World Vision, The Salvation Army, Church World Service, Lutheran World Service, and World Relief are only a few of the many Christian organizations at the scene of disaster distributing aid and meeting the needs of survivors.
Relief teams from World Vision in Jakarta have dispatched emergency supplies to thousands of now homeless people in central Java with the initial relief supplies expected to reach hard-hit Yogyakarta on Sunday morning (local time). Items to be distributed include essential non-food items: blankets, tarps for shelter, clothing, and medical supplies for the wounded.
The Salvation Army in Indonesia said they launched an immediate response to the quake as well as approving an immediate grant of US $20,000 to help the people in affected areas.
Church World Service and its partners have provided 500 blankets to Bethesda Hospital in Yogyakarta; are assessing immediate needs in Bantul; and are preparing to begin the distribution of food and non-food items. CWS plans to distribute food and non-food items such as tents, blankets, CWS Health kits, and Baby Kits following assessment of the situation.
CWS, a member of Action by Churches Together (ACT), is working with local Indonesian church organizations such as Yakkum Emergency Unit (YEU) and Yayasan Tanggul Bencana (YTBI). YEU is helping to evacuate injured children to Tegalyoso hospital in Klaten while YTBI is providing staff to help coordinate the distribution of food and medicine.
U.K.-based Christian Aid, which is also a member of ACT, reports that it will channel donations to its ACT partners in Indonesia: YEU, YTBI, and CWS.
Catholic Relief Service (CRS) is also working alongside local partners to distribute shelter material for the homeless survivors and has committed an initial $200,000 to the initial relief efforts. Additional emergency relief teams are expected to arrive in Yogyakarta on Sunday the group reported.
According to Anthony Guarino of the CalTech Seismological Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Indonesia is said to have the second-highest number of volcano eruption in history besides Japan. Furthermore, the world’s largest archipelago has the world’s largest number of volcanoes – 76.
"The condition of the city of Yogyakarta is still uncertain at the moment because the people are still afraid to go back to their homes and afraid that another tsunami will happen," said Major Dina Ismael, the Salvation Army’s emergency relief coordinator in Indonesia. "The quake [aftershocks] are still happening but not as big as this morning."
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