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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Indonesia quake: 'This has only made it worse'

ELCA partners began work on the island of Nias soon after the Dec. 26 tsunami struck. The island also was closest to the epicenter of the March 28 earthquake, adding further death and destruction to this already battered island off the west coast of Sumatra.

More than 1,000 people may have died and 80 percent of the buildings left standing from the tsunami were damaged or destroyed by the quake, according to Lutheran World Relief.

In addition to emergency aid, ELCA and LWR partners Yakkum Emergency Unit and Yayasan Tanggul Bencana had been running mobile clinics, staffing health posts in camps, drilling wells and establishing sanitation facilities. Long-term work had also begun, including rehabilitating educational facilities, providing school kits, and training volunteers and medical personnel. Shortly after the quake, LWR tried to reach partners there. “Communications to and on Nias are difficult, as is travel there,” said Jeff Rasmussen, an LWR staff member who returned from the island the week before the quake hit.

Bishop Fs Gea of the Protestant Christian Batak Church, a Lutheran World Federation member, was stuck in Jakarta and unable to return to Nias where the quake destroyed the main airstrip. He said he knew of many newly damaged church buildings and was still unable to make contact with his family on Nias.

“When we respond [to this quake], it will be part of our overall tsunami response,” said Belletech Deressa of the ELCA Division for Global Mission. “Nias has not yet recovered from the [December 2004] earthquake and tsunami, and this has only made it worse.”


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