DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (BP)–Winter’s bitter cold will be eased for hundreds of earthquake victims in Central Asia as 20 tons of coal purchased with Southern Baptist disaster relief funds makes its way into a mountainous region of Tajikistan struck by an earthquake Jan. 2.
The 5.3-magnitude quake hit Gorno-Badakhshansky, where Southern Baptist relief work was still ongoing from a March 2009 tremor, the project director said. Emergency relief officials in the government report 100 houses completely destroyed and another 900 partially damaged.
The coal deliveries will provide an opportunity to help people in and around Gishkhun village who are frightened about the prospect of more violent seismic activity.
“Aftershocks were frequent and some quite noticeable. I am a little jumpy myself after part of a house came down just beside me during one,” the project director said. “Local people are frightened from years of seismic activity that some have attributed to pending volcanic eruption. The quake of Jan. 2 and aftershocks have been preceded by loud booming from underground.”
The area is prone to earthquakes. According to the government’s emergency management office, more than 170 significant tremors were reported in the area between September 2007 and March 2009.
Several relief organizations are providing emergency supplies, including tents, tarps, food and clothing, the project director added. Water in the area is safe to drink. The coal deliveries, which will begin this week, will provide heat for displaced families forced to live in tents during the weeks of bitter winter weather ahead. The $7,000 cost of the project breaks down to just $11.70 per person.
More than 600 people have been left without shelter, so a long-term need in the area will be constructing new housing, said Francis Horton, who with his wife Angie directs work in Central and South Asia for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization.
“Our ministry partner has been asked to build houses. This is the principal humanitarian need and our partner could serve as the primary implementer of the project,” Horton said. “Funding will come from several sources, including general relief funds provided by Southern Baptists. Volunteers may be needed in this relief effort, once building can start in the spring.”
Meanwhile, people can begin helping immediately by praying for the affected families and those who are organizing the relief effort, Horton said.
“This is a great opportunity for people who care to help people in need in a very remote area of the world.” Horton said. “One of the Christians in the area has asked us to pray that those in leadership and ministry would have wisdom and discernment, and for the Father to bless and guide them. Please pray that God’s peace would reign in this very remote, isolated part of the world.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. Baptist Global Response is located on the Internet at gobgr.org.