Villagers carry their belongings as they walk through mud near the ruins of houses after an earthquake hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. CNS photo/Beawiharta, Reuters

D&P scrambles to help earthquake relief in Haiti and Indonesia

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  • October 19, 2018

Earthquakes in Indonesia and Haiti have left long-time Development and Peace partners in those countries reaching out for help so they can in turn help struggling peasants and fishing families surrounding them.

In response to a Sept. 28 magnitude-7.4 earthquake near Palu, Indonesia, and a 5.9-magnitude Oct. 6 earthquake near the city of Port de Paix on Haiti’s north shore, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has released $50,000 each to Caritas partners working in disaster relief in the two regions.

Planning for disaster recovery in Haiti is well underway because Montreal staff of Development and Peace never lost contact with their partner in Haiti’s Artibonite province, the Institute de Technologie et d’Animation (ITECA). However, in Indonesia workers for the local Caritas agency known as KARINA have been left without phones, faxes or Internet access.

“We have lost contact with them,” explained Development and Peace’s chief disaster response planner Stephane Vinhas. “The fact is that the first responders are our local partners, but they are themselves impacted by the catastrophe.”

The scale of destruction on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island is massive. As of Oct. 14 the death toll stands at 2,091, over 10,000 have been injured and more than 82,000 have been forced from their homes. An estimated 1.5 million Indonesians are affected and the United Nations estimates the clean-up will cost $50.5 million.

Whole villages were submerged when land they were built on simply liquified.

The quake was accompanied by a tsunami. More than 65,000 houses were severely damaged or destroyed.

Caritas personnel are on the ground as part of an international response to the Indonesian government’s call for help. But road access to the region has been difficult to establish and the Indonesian government has tried to restrict the scope of international agencies at work in the area, said Vinhas.

The Indonesian government has come under criticism from Indonesians over its readiness for the disaster. Tsunami warning technology put in place after the massive Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 had not been properly maintained and was not fully functioning, resulting in a mere 30-minute warning that this tsunami was on its way.

The Indonesian disaster also follows hard on the heels of a series of earthquakes in August which displaced 340,000 people in nearby Lombok.

The initial Caritas response has included medical teams dispatched to the area, some limited food distribution and an attempt to survey the damage.

“There are two villages of more than 5,000 people still not accessible. The death toll may increase again,” Vinhas said. “Infrastructure is destroyed. There’s a lack of electricity.”

When KARINA in Palu is up and running again, Development and Peace will be able to help their partner with its disaster recovery plans, said Vinhas.

“Obviously we will provide money,” he said. “But also, we will try to inform them about what has been done in other contexts.”

Development and Peace was part of a massive Caritas effort to rebuild in the wake of the 2004 tsunami.

The Canadian government has sent one of its CC-130 Hercules aircraft to Indonesia to help with delivery of tarpaulins and shelter kits and released $1.5 million for humanitarian assistance.

In Haiti, where the latest earthquake killed 15, injured over 300 and damaged approximately 7,000 houses, Development and Peace’s partner ITECA has the experience of organizing and rebuilding after the massive 2010 earthquake, which killed approximately 160,000, left hundreds of thousands homeless and led to an outbreak of cholera that persists to this day.

This time, the Haitians are ready.

“Our partners are in this region. We’ve received very precise and detailed information from the field from them,” said Vinhas.

Plans are still forming, but Development and Peace has maintained a commitment to rural development in Haiti since it was founded in 1967.

“This is obvious that we will help them in responding to this crisis,” Vinhas said. “Up to now, we don’t know what will be the response.”

Contributions to Development and Peace can be made at www.devp.org.

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