YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (BP)–Southern Baptist disaster relief specialists arrived May 29 in Indonesia’s central island of Java and immediately began assessing ways to aid survivors of the May 27 earthquake that killed more than 5,600 people.
The relief specialists are using an initial $50,000 in Southern Baptist aid to provide food to outlying areas neglected by larger aid groups. Additional funds likely will be requested in the coming days.
“We’ll be determining in the next few days what we’re going to be doing,” a Southern Baptist worker said. “The United Nations, the U.S. government, the European Union and other groups are short-termers, but we’re trying to determine what Southern Baptists need to be doing for the long term in this.”
The 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck early May 27 along Java’s southern coast, crushing thousands of Indonesians as they slept in their homes and injuring at least 15,000 more. The quake flattened whole villages in the area, destroyed thousands of buildings and left at least 100,000 people homeless. The injured quickly overwhelmed area hospitals, several of which were destroyed or heavily damaged. Many of the injured huddled outside with other survivors in the rains that followed the quake as numerous aftershocks vibrated through the area.
“Too many outside organizations trying to respond simultaneously can often hinder more than help in a situation like this one,” the Southern Baptist worker noted. “We’re considering the timing and the actual need that will remain after the first responders have left the scene.”
Buckled roads, power outages and damage to the airport in the regional center of Yogyakarta slowed initial relief efforts. Relief workers and major aid shipments began to reach the city and outlying towns as the airport reopened and travel conditions improved May 29. Emergency shelters also began to open that day.
However, Mount Merapi, a towering volcano north of Yogyakarta, continued to threaten eruption. The quake destabilized the mountain’s dome, according to Indonesian volcanologists. If the dome collapses, a large eruption likely will follow. People living near the volcano began evacuating as gas and smoke clouds rose into the sky.
Southern Baptist volunteers continue to work in Indonesia’s northern Sumatra region, helping survivors of the massive 2004 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 170,000 people in Indonesia alone. Southern Baptists have contributed more than $16 million to tsunami aid and reconstruction work in southern Asia since that disaster.
Workers asked for prayer for Southern Baptist disaster relief specialists as they assess ways to aid survivors, and that God would provide wisdom as they make decisions and as they seek to remain physically safe.
Southern Baptists can help relief efforts in Indonesia by sending financial gifts designated “General Relief-Java Earthquake” to the International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, Va., 23230. Give online here . All funds given will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.