Huge relief efforts needed across Asia

groups plan
to raise funds
Tuesday, December 28, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:11 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Boone County office of the American Red Cross has been fielding calls from people concerned about family members in southern Asia after tidal waves crushed coastlines in several countries Sunday.

“We refer them to the State Department,” said Jutta Hopkins, executive director for the Boone County chapter.

Groups in Columbia such as the Cultural Association of India plan to raise money for disaster relief.

“They are not waiting for our funds, but as a token we will do it,” said Ranadhir Mitra, adviser to the cultural association. “It’s a token sympathy to be with them.”

With an estimated 22,000 dead, and thousands more missing, it has become difficult to contact people in the devastated areas. International student organizations at MU said they were unable to determine the status of their members, especially now that they are a week into the winter break. Most student members of the Cultural Association of India are out of town or on vacation, Mitra said.

“At least 50 percent of our students are from southern India, but I have no idea who they are, and right now I do not know of any person directly affected.”

Mitra has been following the Indian news on satellite television and has been watching the aftermath unfold.

“Two of my brothers’ families live in that area. … The moment I heard about it I called,” Mitra said. “They are lucky.”

Mitra said the cultural association has done fund-raisers after previous natural disasters in India and plan to do more in January, when students return.

The Thai Student Association at MU also plans to raise funds. “We will figure it out in a couple of days,” association President Piyasak Damronglerd said.

Jim McCartney, director of the MU International Center, said he expects several MU organizations will participate in outreach efforts once the winter break is over.

MU has 61 students from Thailand, 11 from Indonesia, 232 from India and one from Sri Lanka, according to the International Center. McCartney said he did not know whether any of those students were affected by the disaster.

“We have heard from only one student in Thailand, and she is OK,” McCartney said. MU has no students studying abroad in the areas affected.

McCartney said he is unaware of any international students trying to return home after the disaster, but “it could happen.”

The International Center will expedite the handling of documents for any MU students who want to travel home. The staff also will arrange counseling for those who need it.

“We have made contact with the MU Counseling Center, and they are ready if somebody needs help,” McCartney said.

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