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Earthquake strikes Colombia; IMB plans to mobilize response

BOGOTA, Colombia (BP)–Southern Baptist workers are evaluating ways to aid people injured and displaced by a powerful earthquake that killed as many as 2,000 people in Colombia Jan. 25.
The magnitude-6 earthquake flattened towns and neighborhoods across the country’s western coffee-growing region, even shaking buildings 140 miles away in Bogota, the capital. Thousands of people were driven from damaged homes into the rainy night. Large areas have no water or electricity, and initial relief efforts were slow to get started.
The earthquake is believed to be the worst in Colombia’s history. A 1994 temblor killed 800 people. Landslides following a 1985 volcanic eruption in western Colombia claimed an estimated 24,000 lives.
Several Baptist churches are located in the area. One is serving as a shelter for people whose homes were destroyed, said John Cheyne, the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s interim director of human needs ministries.
According to a report from the Baptist World Alliance, Second Baptist Church in Armenia and the home of its pastor were destroyed.
Southern Baptists will provide some immediate relief in the form of plastic sheeting to help shelter families from the elements, Cheyne said. Hunger relief also is expected to be needed.
A more detailed analysis of needs and ways Southern Baptists can respond will be available once workers survey the damage and talk to Colombian Baptist leaders in the area, he said.
People interested in assisting with relief efforts may contact Cheyne at (804) 219-1525. Donations to the General Relief Fund may be sent to: Office of Finance, International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.