Haiti (MNN/BP) — Southern Baptists are mobilizing to assess disaster relief needs after the largest earthquake in more than 200 years rocked Haiti the evening of Jan. 12.
The initial Southern Baptist disaster relief effort will be led by Florida Baptists, who have had ministry relationships in Haiti for more than 20 years. They currently have seven Haitian staff members who live and work in the country, said Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response. The Southern Baptist International Mission Board does not have long-term personnel stationed in the country.
The North American Mission Board's disaster relief office is organizing an emergency consultation with state disaster relief directors to coordinate response to the catastrophe, Brown said. Disaster relief teams in Mississippi and Kentucky are on standby for immediate response.
An assessment team is being organized by the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and state convention disaster relief directors to enter the country as soon as possible, Brown said. They will work with Haitian Baptists to identify immediate needs that must be addressed and will draft mid- and long-term plans for an ongoing relief effort.
Initial funding for the relief effort will come from the International Mission Board's disaster relief fund (www.imb.org).
The 7.0 magnitude tremor hit 10 miles from the center of Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital with a population of 3 million, at around 5 p.m. Jan. 12, according to news reports. One source said the quake could be felt more than 200 miles away. The earthquake triggered a tsunami watch for Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Multiple strong aftershocks continued to rock the country after the initial tremor, said David Brown, who with his wife, Jo, directs Baptist Global Response work in the Americas. Reports from inside the country indicate infrastructure and many buildings suffered catastrophic damage. The main airport is closed; power and communications are down; and security is a serious concern. Specialized search and rescue teams and military units from several countries are being rushed into Haiti to help secure the situation and begin relief efforts.
Apart from donating to the disaster relief fund, concerned individuals can help greatly by joining in focused prayer for Haiti's 9 million people, more than 80 percent of whom live below the poverty line, David Brown said. "Please pray for us as we assess and monitor the situation in Haiti after the 7.0 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks this evening," he said. "The initial information indicates 2 million people in Port-au-Prince are directly affected. Please pray for victims and their families. Pray for wisdom as responses are initiated."
The situation in Haiti is very fluid, and additional information will continue to flow in on a daily basis, Brown said. Updates will be released as new information becomes available.