News Articles

Baptists mobilizing relief for Turkey quake survivors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist relief officials dispatched immediate monetary relief aid and began exploring ways to help survivors of the earthquake that killed thousands in western Turkey Aug. 17.
“We’re working on the immediate needs of food, water and medical supplies,” said Southern Baptist human needs specialist Jim Brown. Those supplies would be directed especially in areas not being reached by other aid agencies.
Other forms of aid will follow soon. An assessment team representing multiple Southern Baptist agencies planned to leave for Turkey Aug. 21 to evaluate the most effective ways to contribute to the rescue effort.
A 10-member Texas Baptist Men disaster relief team — equipped with a mobile field kitchen — anticipated arriving in Turkey Aug. 23. They’ll set up in one of the tent cities mushrooming in quake-devastated areas to house survivors. Other state volunteer teams are reported to be on standby and ready to go.
Until then, Brown said, “the resource we need more than anything else is finances” to buy supplies. Donations designated for Turkey may be sent to Southern Baptist World Relief at P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.
The reported death toll soared past 6,000 Aug. 19, with more than 29,000 people injured and thousands more still missing. The temblor measured 7.4 on the Richter scale, according to Turkish authorities. That’s smaller than the 7.8 measure reported by the U.S. Geological Survey, but still among the most powerful earthquakes of the century. A 7.9 quake killed 33,000 people in eastern Turkey in 1939.
One visiting Southern Baptist group had just arrived in Istanbul when their hotel was damaged by the early morning quake. Unhurt, they joined other Americans in the sprawling city when daylight came to distribute water, bread and other items in public parks to residents terrified to return to their apartments.
Pockets of Istanbul sustained major damage, but most of the death and destruction struck areas farther east — like Izmit, the epicenter of the quake, about 55 miles away. A Southern Baptist who drove there from Istanbul Aug. 18 found many buildings flattened. “It was difficult to hear the cries for help from a man trapped inside a building when we knew that he probably wouldn’t be rescued,” he said.
Another Southern Baptist who went to the devastated coastal area reported seeing dozens of five-, six- and seven-story apartment buildings crumpled like stacks of pancakes, with workers only now digging through the rubble to look for survivors or bodies. The residents who had not left the city were living in streets and parks, eating bread and vegetables.”
Christians in Istanbul sent volunteers Aug. 19 to three of the hardest-hit towns. Another group was preparing food packets for distribution and working to obtain a truck to deliver desperately needed water the next day.
Said one Christian in Istanbul: “We’ve been trying to see what we can do, what people will let us do, what needs to be done. I keep thinking about that Bible passage where Mordecai tells Esther that maybe God put you here for ‘such a time as this.'”
At the Washington-based Baptist World Alliance, the organization’s BWAid relief and development arm reported it had begun work with European Baptists and other Baptist groups and Christian relief organizations to provide relief in Turkey.
Donations for BWA efforts, marked for “Turkish Earthquake Appeal,” can be forwarded to Baptist World Aid, 6733 Curran St., McLean, VA 22101.