CRS Responds to Indonesia Earthquake

Dear Friend,

In the early hours of May 27, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake rocked central Java, Indonesia. The epicenter was near the densely populated city of Yogyakarta, leading to heavy damage and high casualties. At least 5,700 people were killed, and another 38,000 were injured. More than half a million homes were affected by the earthquake, with more than 330,000 collapsed or severely damaged and 2.4 million people were left homeless.

Fortunately, Catholic Relief Services and our partners were able to respond almost immediately. Two weeks earlier, we had already begun relief operations in preparation for a possible eruption of nearby Mount Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes. CRS had staff and supplies already in place when the earthquake hit, and soon even more help was on the way. We launched our relief effort in collaboration with the Indonesian Catholic Bishops' Conference, the national Caritas in Indonesia (known as Karina) and our sister international Catholic agencies.

CRS provided emergency shelter, particularly from the rains that soon followed, and distributed tools and materials so survivors could start salvaging their households. We distributed more than 4,500 shelter kits that included badly needed tarps and blankets, more than 4,000 hygiene kits and more than 4,300 clothing kits. We also gave out more than 1,600 sets of tools so people could immediately begin the long process of cleanup and salvage.

In emergencies like this one, humanitarian agencies divide up responsibilities so there isn't duplication of effort. CRS is coordinating activities among the Catholic agencies providing earthquake relief, acting as the primary source of information to the Caritas Internationalis confederation.

As in any disaster, CRS is committed to people for the long haul – helping them rebuild their homes, their livelihoods and their communities. In Yogyakarta, we are planning a three-stage, $6-million effort that focuses on getting people back to work and building temporary and permanent shelters for people who have lost their homes. And of course, we are poised to respond should Mount Merapi erupt.

Not too far away in East Timor, an area that was once part of Indonesia, civil unrest caused by ethnic rivalries has led to violence that claimed 20 lives and forced CRS staff to evacuate for several days. Once they were able to return, our staff resumed relief efforts for the approximately 13,000 people who have fled the violence and crowded onto the grounds of the Don Bosco vocational school. Altogether, CRS and our sister agency Caritas Australia are providing support for more than 25,000 people in seven locations.

The violence in East Timor is threatening to dismantle the fragile democracy of this fledgling nation, officially declared independent from Indonesia in 2002. CRS had already been working there to help communities build a peaceful and democratic nation. Once order is restored, we will resume this vital effort on behalf of the people of East Timor.

Thank you for your continued support and your prayers,

Ken Hackett

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