Relief organizations provide aid to tsunami victims

  By Thomas Wilson
star staff
twilson@starhq.com
  Relief organizations are racing against time to provide aid after the largest earthquake to strike the planet since 1964 created devastating tsunami waves that killed thousands of people in 12 countries across south Asia.
  The 9.0-magnitude quake hit Sunday off the coast of Indonesia sending waves as high as 20 feet crashing into the coastal areas of 11 nations near the Bay of Bengal. The death toll of victims had climbed to over 77,000 by Wednesday evening, according to the United Nations, as aid began to trickle into deva countries such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Maldives. Red Cross officials predicted the casualty rate could exceed 100,000 dead.
  International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in south Asia are mobilizing staff and volunteers in affected areas to assist with immediate needs. Emergency assessment and first-aid teams have already reached some of the affected areas.
   Jane Harris of the Greater Kingsport Chapter of the American Red Cross said on Wednesday that no local agency volunteers were going to Southeast Asia to assist in rescue effort since few had the necessary disaster relief skills required to work in such a theatre of relief.
  "It takes people with all the right training to go and be useful," said Harris. "It is fairly lengthy training."
  The Red Cross estimated 45,000 dead in Indonesia, 22,000 in Sri Lanka, and 7,000 in India.
  Children are likely to account for more than a third of those killed when massive waves smashed into coastal communities across Asia, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in a statement released Wednesday.
  Other national and international disaster relief organizations have launched massive relief operations and are requesting donations to support relief efforts. In addition to the International Red Cross, AmeriCares and Oxfam International and Oxfam America are among several international development and relief agencies bringing food and medical relief to victims of the tsunami.
  Relief supplies of food and water, medical items, blankets, temporary shelter such as tents were in route to affected countries on Wednesday according to UNICEF and several aid organizations.
  The National Earth Center of the U.S. Geological Survey reported the earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 struck off the west coast of northern Sumatra on Sunday morning. The earthquake occurred roughly 6 miles beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean and triggered a tsunami that slammed into the coastlines of 11 Asian countries causing horrific damage and leaving tens of thousands dead.
  Scientists with the U.S. National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration (NOAA) issued a warning about an earthquake in the Indian Ocean that triggered the tsunami. The NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued an information bulletin to nations in the Pacific at 8:14 p.m. on Saturday, indicating that an earthquake registering a magnitude of 8.0 - later upgraded to magnitude 9.0 - had occurred off the coast of Sumatra. NOAA reported on Wednesday that some energy from the tsunami had leaked into the Pacific Basin on Tuesday causing fluctuations in sea levels as far away as Chile and San Diego, Calif.
  A tsunami is a series of ocean waves generated by any rapid large-scale disturbance of the seawater. Earthquakes generate most tsunamis, but they may also be caused by volcanic eruptions, landslides, undersea slumps or meteor impacts.
  Harris said the American Red Cross was prepared to support operations with relief supplies, financial assistance or personnel as requested by the sister International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies there. She said the Kingsport office had received telephone calls from Elizabethton residents asking how they could help or where to donate for the agency's relief effort for survivors.
  Harris said the American Red Cross could not accept donations of collected items for this crisis. She said financial support is the most economical and effective way to assist for those wishing to help.
   Individuals can help those affected by this crisis and countless others around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance, and other support to those in need.
   Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to the local American Red Cross, 116 Holston Ave, Elizabethton, TN 37643 or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Contributors can call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish).
   Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting the Red Cross Web site at http://www.redcross.org. The gift may be designated for use in the South Asia earthquake and tsunamis.
   Contributors can find out how to donate relief aid to AmeriCares at the organization's Web site at www.americares.org.; the Oxfam Web site, www.oxfam.org.; and the Network for Good Web site, www.networkforgood.org.