The death toll continues to rise after the deadliest earthquake of 2017 shook the Iran-Iraq border late Nov. 12.
More than 450 people have been killed and 7,000 injured in the 7.3-magnitude quake, with major aftershocks continuing to shake the region, extending into Turkey, Kuwait, Pakistan and Lebanon, according to CNN.
Iran and Iraq both have started major rescue efforts.
In the meantime, Southern Baptists are sifting through reports to decide their best response for the devastated area.
“We are definitely calling for people to pray for those affected, but at this point we really don’t have an idea what the response will be like,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response (BGR). “We will know more in the next few days.”
Access is an issue in some of the affected region, so it’s possible that BGR’s response might not lean on sending volunteers into the area, Palmer said.
He added that BGR has focused heavily on preparing nationals in locations worldwide to be able to respond quickly to hurting people around them.
“BGR has been around for 10 years now, and we have trained and equipped thousands of local partners who can help us respond,” Palmer said, noting that the drought situation in Africa and the Syrian refugee crisis have been long-term, ongoing efforts. “It’s great help if we can have front-line people who are already there and have survived events like this before in their area. We are constantly training and building the capacity of local partners so that when these bad times come, they are ready to respond.”
That strategy has seen success in places like Puerto Rico, where trained nationals moved into action following recent hurricanes. It also helped in Mexico City, where a devastating 7.1-magnitude earthquake killed 369 people in September.
And the area of Iran and Iraq hit by the quake is no stranger to this type of disaster – Iran, where most of the casualties have been reported, sits on a major fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian plates. In 2003, the city of Bam had the world’s most deadly earthquake this century – about 26,000 people died, according to CNN.
For more information or to give to relief efforts, visit gobgr.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.)