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Hungarian Baptist team finds survivors; post-quake appeals for India continue

WASHINGTON (BP)–Members of the Baptist World Aid-affiliated special rescue team have rescued two people following the Jan. 26 earthquake in the western India state of Gujarat. Meanwhile, the Indian government and relief organizations are acknowledging the massive relief and rebuilding task in the region, with Baptist and other evangelical groups mobilizing to help.

A Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBAid) rescue team of 12 men and three dogs arrived in Delhi, India, late on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 28, and then on Monday morning were flown by the Indian air force to Buj and then on to the town of Anjar.

Monday was a depressing day for the team in the town. “The collapsed school buried 300 children,” reported the team leader. “It is a heart-tearing feeling that the sensors are not finding signs of life at all, there is only one house unaffected.” While feeling aftershocks, the team had no time for fear.

Tuesday was wholly different. The team leader reported that one of the rescue dogs signaled it had found a survivor under the ruins. Team members then heard human voices from the rubble, affirming the dog’s signals. A 50-60-year-old man was rescued, examined, fed and transported to a hospital by the doctors on the team. Gabor Kovacs, a long-serving leader of HBAid, participated in the rescue operation. Not long after this they found an older lady as well, unfortunately with her dead daughter by her side.

Indian government officials have estimated a final death toll could reach 100,000, with 500,000 displaced from their homes, and 3.5 million people affected in some way.

BWAid has already been able to make funds available in India through HBAid and also through indigenous Baptists. Now, as the rescue efforts begin to slow down, the emphasis is turning to the immediate needs for shelter, food, water and medicine. Parts of Gujarat have experienced years of severe drought, so food is of higher importance than would normally be expected.

BWAid is already beginning to see a response to its special Indian earthquake appeal, but BWAid director Paul Montacute emphasized that relief and rehabilitation programs will be needed for many months ahead. “While the rescue of individuals from the ruins brings deserved publicity,” he said, “the long-term rebuilding of people’s lives is only just beginning.”

Meanwhile, a Southern Baptist regional assessment team has been dispatched to the area to determine the most pressing needs, such as medical supplies and food, for response.

While details of some of these longer programs are still awaited from Indian partners, the Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) has already delivered shelter materials and blankets and is putting together basic relief kits. Each kit costs $25 to put together and contains clothing; a blanket; kitchen utensils; lantern; tarpaulin; dry food ration of 7 kilogram rice, 2 kilograms of flour, 1 kilogram lentils, 1 liter of edible oil; a match box and candles.

Donations may be made to the Indian Earthquake Appeal c/o Baptist World Aid, Baptist World Alliance, 6733 Curran St., McLean, VA 22101; telephone, (703) 790 8980; fax, (703) 790-5719; e-mail, [email protected]. A U.S. tax receipt will be issued. Donations may also be made by Visa or MasterCard in U.S. dollars. Provide the gift amount; card number; expiration date; signature of donor; and name as it appears on credit card. Donors also can call BWAid to make a credit card donation.

Relief donations also may be sent to the International Mission Board General Relief Fund-India earthquake, Nelson said, noting that 100 percent of all gifts will be used for hunger and relief purposes. The IMB address is P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

Among other groups mobilizing aid for Indian earthquake relief are Samaritan’s Purse, based in Boone, N.C.; Campus Crusade for Christ, based in Orlando, Fla.; World Vision, based in Tacoma, Wash.; Christian Aid Mission, based in Charlottesville, Va.; MAP International, based in Brunswick, Ga.; Food for the Hungry, based in Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Salvation Army World Service Office, based in Alexandria, Va.

Gujarat is an area where Christians have suffered in recent years, with churches destroyed and Christians attacked, according to the Baptist World Alliance. There is no known Baptist group in the state; thus BWAid will be working through indigenous evangelical and ecumenical relief groups.

Gujarat and four other states suffered the greatest destruction, and all are “frontline areas where missionaries are persecuted,” reported Christian Aid Mission in a news release.

“Indigenous groups are already helping as much as they can,” said Lance Thollander, Christian Aid director for India and Pakistan, “but they cannot go to their neighbors with aid they don’t have.”

Thollander noted: “Help sent now will help native missionaries open hearts to the Lord Jesus.”

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