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Water a ‘lifeline issue’ in China quake relief

YA’AN, China (BP) — Hearts around the world leaped when TV viewers saw rescuers pull a 3-month-old baby alive from the rubble of a house in China’s Sichuan province, but her mother was among more than 200 people killed by a 7.0 earthquake April 19.

An estimated 100,000 people are homeless and 11,800 injured by the quake.

BGR International, the Singapore headquarters of Baptist Global Response (www.gobgr.org), is launching a six-month initiative to help survivors, Pat Melancon, BGR’s managing director of disaster response and training, reported.

“BGR is assessing the available opportunities to respond. Fortunately, BGR-trained response teams are in the area,” Melancon said. In 2008, a massive earthquake in Sichuan killed more than 70,000 people. Training conducted in the aftermath of that disaster laid important groundwork for this response.

“As with any significant disaster, water is a lifeline issue that is one of the most critical to address. The current teams in place have experience in this area and are focusing on providing clean water to some of those affected,” Melancon said. “As teams arrive in the affected area, they will assess the situation with the community members. The assessment will include looking at water needs, local resources and the local conditions that might facilitate meeting that need.”

The quake knocked out communications and sent landslides onto mountain roads. A total of 18,000 soldiers have been dispatched to clear roads, restore communications, help search for survivors and set up camps for the homeless, the official Xinhua news service reported. More than 1.5 million people are estimated to have been affected by the disaster.

BGR’s initial response to the quake entailed five vehicles filled with supplies being sent into the quake zone, said Ben Wolf, who with his wife Pam leads BGR work in the Asia Rim. Six water treatment machines have been set up, with six more ready to go. Wolf expects at least 30 machines to be needed.

A total of $50,000 in general relief funds has been allocated to initiate the effort. A disaster response like this could include food, water, shelter and children’s needs and would involve working with local volunteers, NGOs and government entities. The Chinese government has promised to deliver 30,000 tents, 50,000 quilts and 10,000 camp beds as soon as possible, according to news reports. Disease prevention efforts have been started.

At the onset of a disaster response the scales are tipped toward the physical impact upon a population, but before long the focus shifts toward the emotional and spiritual, Melancon added.

“The physical rebuilding of communities affected by this earthquake will be significant. However, the emotional carnage will only be repaired through caring hands, tender smiles, kind words and genuine concern,” Melancon said. “Consistent concern and practical assistance throughout the whole tipping process enables a community to recover with strength and vigor.

“The Chinese outlook is often to the hope of the future. The hopes of many families came crashing down as they lost both their dwellings and their children,” Melancon continued. “For the poor, even a slight disastrous event has a significant impact on daily life. A disaster of this magnitude has left many feeling overwhelmed by the financial loss, wondering if they will ever get back to normal again.

“Many families will never wake up the same way again. While the sun will set in the same place and rise in the same place, their lives have been permanently reoriented by the trauma of this event.”

BGR partners coordinating the response listed several ways concerned friends could pray for the crisis, especially that rescue workers would be able to find survivors and rescue them and that response teams would be emotionally strengthened and have discernment and wisdom as they make decisions about how to focus relief efforts.
Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, on the Internet at www.gobgr.org.

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