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Mercy Corps helps out after earthquake in South Pacific

Indonesia, October 1, 2009

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Pat Dooris

October, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Half a world away from the deadly earthquake in Indonesia, workers at the international relief agency Mercy Corps are hard at work in their Portland headquarters.

They are trying to learn everything they can about the devastation and about six Mercy Corps workers who were closest to the quake and have not checked in with anyone.

The workers reported they were safe Thursday.

"The team in Padang were assessing the situation and starting the initial response before the communication lines opened up earlier today," Paul Jeffery, the man coordinating much of Mercy Corps response. "I don’t have much more detail at this stage. But we are very happy to hear that our team are OK and already helping the earthquake.”

The team worked in Padang on the island of Sumatra. The city is home to roughly 900,000 people.

A second, larger Mercy Corps team is already working in nearby Jakarta. That team is mobilizing to fly into Padang as soon as possible but it takes money to move teams and equipment.

That’s where Jeremy Barnicle and his team come in.

They also work at the Portland headquarters.

Barnicle has spent the day trying to learn everything he can about what’s happening in Padang. By early afternoon he emailed 200,000 donors who may contribute to the effort.

He points to a graph on his computer screen to show how its working.

"What’s interesting is you can see where in the day exactly where our email dropped and people responded. So our email dropped here and boom and then in the next hour boom, I mean look at all those gifts," said Barnicle.

Supporters have been generous, which is good for Mercy Corps.

The team in Jakarta is ready to fly to Padang but needs $10,000 to move people and equipment.

Barnicle tells them online donors have already contributed that amount, and the team gets the order to move out.