January 29, 2001
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is among many relief agencies responding to the catastrophic earthquake that struck India and Pakistan.
Centered in India's western state of Gujarat, the Jan. 26 earthquake crumbled innumerable buildings, resulting in more than 6,000 confirmed dead and an estimated death toll of 20,000 or more. Rescue workers dug through the rubble, often with bare hands, in desperate attempts to reach those trapped underneath. Hardest hit were Ahmedabad, a metropolitan area of some 7.5 million people, and Bhuj, a desert town of about 150,000.
UMCOR is responding through Action by Churches Together (ACT), a worldwide alliance of about 200 Protestant and Orthodox churches and aid agencies, and through Church's Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) in India.
CASA and Lutheran Service-India, both ACT members, have sent relief and assessment teams to the affected area to distribute food and other urgently needed items. Many of the survivors continue to live in the open as aftershocks from the earthquakes continue.
Arrangements are being made to deliver supplies of dry food, blankets, water, utensils and shelter to help more than 35,000 people. CASA is planning to request an ACT appeal of $1.5 million to cover those supplies, according to Disaster News Network.
CASA also is a longstanding partner with Church World Service, the relief arm of the U.S. National Council of Churches. Church World Service's office in neighboring Pakistan is working with local partners to assess needs in that country, which also suffered earthquake damage.
The All India Christian Council issued a Jan. 29 statement mourning the tragic loss of life and property from the earthquake.
"Our immediate thoughts are with those who are trapped under fallen buildings," the statement said. "The Christian community prays for their safety and for strength and courage to all those involved in the rescue effort." The council particularly cited prayers for children affected by the destruction.
"It will take a massive national effort to help them rebuild their lives," it continued. "An extensive Medicare system has to be put into place. Apart from homes, schools and hospitals will have to be reconstructed, together with other civic infrastructure."
Donations to UMCOR's relief efforts in India and Pakistan can be made to UMCOR Advance #274305-0, "South Asia Earthquake." Checks can be dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583.
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