Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fire in Belen

On Dec. 20, a fire destroyed the community surrounding our LACC school in the Belen district of Iquitos. Over 1000 people have been displaced. Thanks to all who have expressed concern and are praying for Belen. I just got back from there and need a bit of time to pull it all together. Here are the main points of interest:

1. The fire broke out because of a propane tank explosion. The community thought that two children died, but (thankfully) they were found the next day.

2. About 1000 people have been displaced and are using our church and school as the relief centers.

3. The biggest needs are food, a place to sleep/live and clothing. We do a feeding program at the school, so the members of the church are now using it to feed the community. Some of the people you see in the photos, feeding the community, are the very ones who lost their homes. There is no gas, water or electricity in the community, so they are cooking the food over the wood scraps from homes.

4. We have enough food on site to serve about 500 meals for about 10 days. The government is also shipping in food--though the people like ours better! Lena Shrader, Emily Sandoval and Ron Smith (along my kids and other friends) shipped 120 boxes of food yesterday. It'll take about 14 days to arrive.

5. I had $1500 in my ministry account in Peru, I gave it to Pastor Jose to buy mats that the people can sleep on, to buy some meat (to go along with the fortified rice and vegetables we had on hand) and to buy emergency supplies. I told him that more money was on its way.  (Please see the post below, from Phyllis Rose, for the account number and address.) When we get the money transferred to Peru, I'll be able to transfer some to Pastor Jose for immediate needs and also negotiate purchasing things in bulk from Lima. Iquitos is in the jungle and does not have the infrastructure to just buy what you want.

6. The president of Peru visited the site, yesterday. I missed him by a few minutes. He's promised every family two sheets of plywood and some tin. I think I didn't understand the translation very well, because everyone seemed to think that was excellent news. I asked Pastor Jose, "So, people are going to build a house with two walls and no floor?" His response was (and I'm not kidding), "They're pretty big pieces of plywood." He also said the president was going to outlaw thatched roofs--which is like blaming the conditions of a refugee camp on cardboard.

7. I've asked Pastor Jose to give me a plan and a budget. He's working on it, but is mostly preoccupied with handling emergencies. We can't start rebuilding yet. I'll post an update when we can start rebuilding.

8. Clothing is a big need, but it cannot be shipped in easily. The Peruvian government is very strict about this. It will likely be easier to buy it here and ship it down. I need to work this out with my missionary colleagues who have more experience in disaster relief.

For those who want to come and help right away, please be patient. Jungle culture does not move as quickly as Americans do. At the same time, the people in this community are not complaining as much as Americans do, either! It is amazing how they are not complaining. They just went out and started collecting the remaining wood to save it as fire wood.

I'm currently coordinating different aspects (and just got to see my family). I need to make some calls and get more information. So, I'll post more in the very near future. Thanks for your prayers. Many of the displaced people are the kids in our school and are my friends from the church. As such, your concern is a great comfort to me and has enabled me to encourage them that help is on its way.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for the information. It isn't always easy to find English language resources to keep up-to-date regarding the goings-on in Iquitos and Belen. I am one of 11 nursing students from Colorado who were there in October working with Amazon Promise an a US-based medical mission program. We would like to be kept informed regarding ways that we might be able to help. Blessings to you and our thoughts and prayers are with the families who were displaced by the fire. Anne Kemp