Catholic agency arranging aid to eathquake zone - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
March 30, 2005

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Catholic agency arranging aid to eathquake zone

-30/03/05

Partners of the catholic aid agency CAFOD are trying to arrange for an aid flight to the island of Nias where it is believed hundreds, if not thousands of people may have lost their lives in an earthquake that struck off the coast of Indonesia.

The earthquake off the western coast of Sumatra measured 8.7 on the Richter scale and triggered tsunami alerts across the region.

As part of Caritas, the worldwide network of Catholic relief agencies, CAFOD is working in Indonesia through the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and has been working in Banda Aceh, Meulaboh and Medan since the tsunami in December.

Following the earthquake, its staff evacuated offices, houses and hotels in the three areas and all 150 are now accounted for. Now it is hoped medical supplies and personnel can be flown to Nias and the damage to the region can be assessed.

Initial fears that a second tsunami would engulf the surrounding area created panic in coastal regions. In Sri Lanka where the aid agency is working in Batticaloa staff and partners moved inland.

Alistair Dutton, CAFOD emergencies officer, who is in Batticaloa, said: "News of the earthquake reached us around 11.30 in the evening. We listened to the radio and looked at the internet but it was unclear whether or not a tsunami would result.

"Neighbours in the area gathered around our house looking for lifts to safer areas and, as a precaution, we moved to the office with them. Many others living close to the coast also made their way into the centre of town.

"The longer-term effects of this scare, however, are not yet known. We are trying to help communities overcome their fears of returning to their land and last night will certainly have set us back several weeks."

CAFOD is also working in Indonesia with its partners the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) which was caught up in the latest tsunami panic but have now managed to contact all staff and report that the areas they are working in are calm again.

Since the Asia tsunami disaster on Boxing Day, the catholic aid agency has raised more than £9 million for work in the region and is also due to receive around £14 million from the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) tsunami appeal.

CAFOD has so far pledged £3 million to relief and rehabilitation work in Indonesia and is planning to spend around £5 million on the longer-term redevelopment that is needed there.

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