PADANG, Indonesia, OCT. 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Indonesian bishops' conference lost part of his residence in the 7.6-magnitude quake that hit Wednesday, but with the death toll from the disaster at more than 1,000, he is focused on the rescue team he's directing to help the victims.
Everyone in the household of 63-year-old Bishop Martinus Dogma Situmorang of Padang was safe. But the quake was the deadliest in Indonesia since May 2006, and the death toll is expected to climb much higher as thousands are still missing.
The local Caritas organization is assessing the needs of the survivors.
Father Agustinus Mudjihartono, helping Caritas in Padang, said that while the situation there is critical, the reality to the north could be even worse.
Caritas Indonesia Director Father Sigit Pramudji said, “There are many people still trapped under rubble in Padang. One of our concerns is that there are only three hospitals, and two have been badly damaged in the tremor. Other challenges are getting access to Padang and poor communications. [...]
“A Caritas team will assess the immediate needs of the people, which we expect to be food and other aid items such as blankets and cooking equipment, medical help, clean water, and shelter.”
Meanwhile, Caritas aid workers are also busy in the South Pacific countries of Samoa and American Samoa, which were hit by a deadly tsunami Tuesday.
“We were there within five to six hours after the tsunami struck, delivering assistance," said Peter Bendinelli, director of Caritas Samoa. "The devastation was astronomical, worse than anything I have ever seen.
“Our trucks leave brimming with food, water and clothing and return full of people who have lost their homes, are sick and injured."
The director explained that food, clean water and shelter are the most pressing needs.
"All the water pipes that run along beside the roads fronting the sea have been totally destroyed as the tsunami waters receded, and people are in urgent need of water," he said.
Caritas is looking to provide support and counseling to the affected population there, and in American Samoa the Church is also assessing the best way to respond.