Mercy Corps responds to earthquake disasters in Samoa and Sumatra

September 30, 2009

Portland, OR – Mercy Corps is responding to two earthquake-related disasters in the Asia Pacific region: in tsunami-wracked Samoan Islands and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where an emergency team is on its way to the epicenter of a 7.6-magnitude quake.

Samoa was slammed Tuesday night by a tsunami generated by an 8.0-magnitude quake. Mercy Corps is helping through a local partner on the ground. News agencies report that the death toll may reach 100.

A powerful earthquake struck western Indonesia today, collapsing buildings and causing landslides in coastal cities and towns. Preliminary reports from the most-affected areas place the death toll at 75, with possibly thousands of people trapped under rubble. Mercy Corps immediately deployed an emergency team to the city of Padang, the closest major city to the epicenter.

“Mercy Corps has a substantial presence in Padang working on disaster preparedness,” said Craig Redmond, Mercy Corps Southeast Asia Regional Director. “No one is better positioned to respond to this emergency than us.”

In Samoa, assistance will be channeled through South Pacific Business Development, which gives small loans to the poor in villages throughout the Samoan islands.

In Indonesia, Mercy Corps’ response will include distribution of temporary shelter items, other relief supplies and provision of clean water. The Mercy Corps team will also continue to assess the situation, alongside other responders and local authorities, to determine how the agency can help with other urgent needs.

The magnitude 7.6 earthquake, which hit the same fault line that spawned the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, was followed just a few minutes later by 6.2-magnitude earthquake. Power and communications lines are down, and road access to devastated areas is blocked by debris.

Mercy Corps has a long history of quick, efficient disaster response in Indonesia. Over the last several years, the agency has rushed lifesaving assistance to survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami, severe flooding in Jakarta and three earthquakes that shook the region. Earlier this month, Mercy Corps responded to another major earthquake that devastated villages in west Java, an island to the south of Sumatra.