Floods take a toll in 3 countries

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jan 18, 2011 5:30 PM
Floods take a toll in 3 countries
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Southern Baptist disaster relief leaders are assessing needs in three areas of the world where flooding has destroyed homes and taken lives.

BRAZIL: Flooding and mudslides in southeastern Brazil have claimed at least 665 lives this past week and rescue teams continue to find victims in the worst natural disaster ever recorded in Brazil, according to The Wall Street Journal. While authorities struggle to reach isolated areas, continuing rain poses the threat of more landslides. The flooding in Rio de Janeiro state is bad but localized, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of the Baptist Global Response humanitarian organization.

"Baptist partners in the area are assessing the situation and potential response," Palmer said. "We are monitoring the situation but right now team members have only requested prayer for people affected by the flooding and for those who are working to get relief to people in need. We anticipate requests for help coming soon in the form of funds for water, food and possibly shelter."

SRI LANKA: More than 1 million people have been affected by torrential rain and flooding in seven districts of northeastern and eastern Sri Lanka, according to that country's Disaster Management Center. The death toll stands at 27 and relocation centers have taken in 362,646 people. The Sri Lankan government and United Nations are providing relief but relief workers are concerned about the threat of water-borne disease and exposure to the elements.

"Communication in a disaster zone is always a challenge and we are trying to get in touch with local partners," Palmer said. "Once we have been able to assess the needs, we will have a better idea how we can respond."

AUSTRALIA: Floods have swept through four Australian states -- an area the size of South Africa -- in the past month and floodwaters now are moving south to the state of Victoria. Government officials say the flooding could wind up being the country's costliest natural disaster ever, according to media reports. The death toll stands at 24 and the cost of rebuilding the areas already hit has been estimated at nearly $10 billion. Floodwaters were deep enough in one small town that two sharks were spotted swimming through the flooded streets, the Queensland Times reported.

Despite the scale of the crisis, however, Australia's government has not issued a general appeal for aid, Palmer said. Australian Baptist partners have been contacted by BGR but have not requested assistance at this time, Palmer said.

Baptist Global Response is able to facilitate responses in disaster relief situations without first raising money because Southern Baptists continue to give generously to hunger and relief causes, Palmer said.

"In many disasters, the most immediate needs can be met most effectively by purchasing relief supplies locally, rather than trying to ship them in," Palmer said. "When we do that, we not only get people the kind of help they need quickly, but we also help them begin to rebuild their lives by infusing the local economy with jobs and money.

"We can respond so quickly and effectively to crisis situations because Southern Baptists are a people who care about people in need," Palmer added. "They give not only when a crisis explodes, but also day by day, week by week, when the need isn't desperate."

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor and senior writer Mark Kelly. Baptist Global Response disaster relief activities are listed on the BGR website, www.gobgr.org.

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