Religious relief agencies, already faced with numerous disastersin the last year, have begun assisting survivors of a massive earthquake inSouth Asia.

After a 7.6-magnitude earthquake shook Pakistan, India and Afghanistanon Saturday (Oct. 8), Catholic Relief Services staffers already based in theregion were able to reach victims within six hours, said Sean Callahan, vicepresident of overseas operations of the Baltimore-based organization.

"This year has been an incredible emergency year," said Callahan, citingdrought and hunger needs on the African continent as well as the more recenthurricanes and flooding that have struck the U.S. Gulf Coast and CentralAmerica.

"Since the Sudan situation of about a year ago and then the tsunami ...this last year has been incredible."

His charity has begun preparing food and shelter items for families hitby the quake even as it continues a five-year plan for those stillrecovering from the late-December tsunami that hit another section of Asia.

Meanwhile, other religious relief organizations are addressing old andnew needs.

Church World Service is responding with food supplies and shelter kitsfor survivors in Pakistan and its medical teams have started providingtetanus shots. Southern Baptist workers have furnished tents and othersupplies to homeless families. Both groups also have been involved in reliefefforts on the Gulf Coast.

The American Jewish World Service has begun assessing the damage in theravaged earthquake area as it also responds to needs of Central Americans,who have been traumatized by Hurricane Stan, mudslides and a volcaniceruption since the start of October.

Other religious groups have begun seeking donations to respond to thelatest crisis.

"Just as Americans came together to help the victims of recent GulfCoast hurricanes, we must do whatever we can to help those suffering fromnatural disasters in other parts of the world," said Ibrahim Hooper, aspokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-basedIslamic advocacy group.

And even as efforts begin on the Asian catastrophe, relief agencies areadvocating for those who have spent a month and a half in shelters sinceHurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and other communities.

Jim Kelly, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities of New Orleans,said his organization, churches, governmental agencies and other reliefgroups have been overwhelmed by the volume of displaced people.

"We need help and the people in the shelters need help," he said. "Theirspirits cannot last another 45 days."

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