Caritas Mobilizing in Wake of Asian Quake

Agencies Active in Pakistan and India

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ROME, OCT. 12, 2005 ( Caritas Pakistan says that its diocesan teams are on the ground working with the communities hard hit by the recent earthquake and assessing the situation.

Caritas Pakistan, part of the international confederation of Catholic relief, development and social service organizations, is setting up medical relief camps in the stricken areas to provide health care for at least three to four days.

Unofficial reports from the Saturday quake that struck Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan put the death toll in Pakistan at about 30,000, while the number of injured approaches 41,000.

Caritas Pakistan’s executive secretary, Anila Gil, reported that many Caritas member organisation have expressed solidarity and offered assistance, including 700 winter tents, 4,200 blankets, and resources for the purchase of essential food and non-food items.

In India, the quake has claimed about 600 lives, and injured thousands, and it is feared that those numbers will rise as many areas remain inaccessible to search and rescue teams. Landslides have blocked roads in some places, and many mountainside villages are connected only by wide footpaths.

A team from Caritas India, which included Father Alex Vadakuthala and Ray Kancharala, visited villages in Baramulla and Uri soon after the quake.

The team described scenes of devastation and misery.

«All their food and utensils are gone because they are buried in the rubble, so they don’t have anything to eat or to cook with,» said Father Vadakuthala.

«And there are bodies buried under the debris, which adds to the trauma,» he said. «One young woman, Nafar, who is 25 years old, was breastfeeding her baby when the earthquake hit. The baby died when the rubble fell, and she is badly traumatized that she is unable to move.»

In the pipeline

Caritas India reports that medicines, blankets, and other relief items have been provided, and that more are in the pipeline. Caritas India is now focused on providing food and water, medical care, sanitation to prevent the spread of disease, shelter, clothing and counseling for victims of trauma.

Caritas partners in Afghanistan report that damages from the earthquake have been relatively minimal compared to the other two countries, and that the needs have largely been addressed. Three deaths were confirmed in the Nangahar Province.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services said it has committed $500,000 to procure emergency supplies for its relief efforts this week in Pakistan and India, and has plans to raise up to $5 million for longer-term recovery efforts.

«The severity of physical devastation in this region and the tragic loss of human life require a commitment by the international community that is quick, efficient, compassionate and generous,» said Catholic Relief Services President Ken Hackett. «We also must be prepared for the onset of the monsoon season, which brings with it the threat of landslides and further inaccessibility to those who are most vulnerable.»

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