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Tajikistan quake relief assessment underway

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (BP)–A Jan. 2 earthquake that struck a mountainous region of Tajikistan has left hundreds, perhaps thousands, of villagers homeless in bitter winter weather, Southern Baptist humanitarian workers in Central Asia report.

The 5.3-magnitude quake struck in Gorno-Badakhshansky, the same area hit hard by a tremor in March 2009. Southern Baptist relief work from the earlier earthquake is still ongoing in the region and the field partner involved in that effort said he expects to find that many houses weakened by last year’s quake have now collapsed.

The field partner reported by e-mail immediately after the tremor struck: “About one hour ago, we felt a rather good shake here. Power went off for one hour and when it came back up we checked online for the location. Seems it was the same place as last year between Vanj and Yazgulom. I was there a few days ago to check on construction progress. I was shown several houses (not included in the project) that had opened big cracks since our initial inspection. This likely was a result of aftershocks from the last year’s quake.”

Emergency official Munira Nazariyeva said Jan. 4 that on-site inspections counted 783 people homeless, 98 mud-brick houses destroyed and nearly 1,000 others damaged by the quake, news agencies reported. No fatalities have been recorded but authorities said electricity supplies and communications in the area were cut off and rockfalls and mudslides blocked some roads.

Southern Baptist humanitarian workers in the country are gathering information and beginning to prepare for potential relief efforts, 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.

“It will take some time to get accurate figures on the homeless. This field partner is continuing an assessment of the situation and will be designing a response that will best assist those affected by this earthquake,” Horton said. “He says the weather is clear and the road is firm for now. They should be able to make some progress over the next couple of days to clarify the picture.”

Because earthquakes are common the region, the field partners, as well as other organizations and local governments, are well-versed in disaster response and have effectively responded to earlier disasters in that area, Horton noted.

“They work very well with other organizations and the local government to get help to the people,” Horton said. “We will await the results of their assessment and move forward according their recommendation.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. Baptist Global Response is on the Web at gobgr.org.

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