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Death toll likely to rise from rural quake in Northern India

By September 20, 2011

India (MNN) — Indian authorities have begun air-dropping relief supplies to
survivors of a deadly earthquake in northeastern India and neighboring
countries like Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

The quake hit just after 6pm local time Sunday and measured 6.9 on the Richter
scale, according to the US Geological Survey. Strong aftershocks have been rattling nerves since then.

Right now, the death toll is fairly low for a quake of this
strength. However, Daniel Punnose with Gospel For Asia
says, "Because of the rural areas where this quake hit, in
talking to our people on the field, it 
[the death toll] could be up in the hundreds of thousands. People will take a long time to get up into
the mountains."

Major roadways were blocked by debris, complicating the transport
of relief supplies. Punnose says, "These are all the same
places where our workers in churches and people are, so we are immediately
doing relief work."

Communications were down, too. Hundreds of survivors were evacuated to
shelters. Rescue teams were  hampered by mudslides
and heavy rains. Even so, Punnose explains, "Wherever our churches are, immediately, the believers will get
together and they'll provide food, shelter and clothing, and bringing people to
the hospital."

People were without shelter after homes were damaged by the
first quake, then by rock falls in subsequent aftershocks. Due to the weather's interference, aid
officials estimate it could be days before they can get the trucks
through. 

Punnose says their
partners are resourceful, so the people in the area are not without hope.
"The people will have to offer simple things like: 'We're going to share our
rice with you,' or 'Stay in our Bridge of Hope building for shelter.' But the reality is that as the days go on,
we're going to see the numbers go into the hundreds of thousands."

After the first wave of response, Punnose says, "Then
the real work begins of trying to help these people from getting sick and
starving. The monsoon rains are going to hinder things badly."

Because the region is populated by farmers, many have lost
their livelihood. GFA's presence is
long-term, especially in disaster zones. "People live with fear, so if we
can help them to realize that Jesus is the answer to life's difficulties, even
though this, then what happens is people have hope to take a step for another
day."

What can you do? "I think every believer should take time and pray and ask the Lord
to do something to meet the needs of these people," says Punnose, adding
that beyond praying is action. "If
people go to our Web site, they can find the latest information and then
definitely people can donate to the relief work."

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