For those of you that do not know, on March 11, 2017, there was a tragic landslide in the trash dump in Korah, Ethiopia. This is where Out of the Ashes has worked for the past four years and where 400 OA students and their families call home.
Hours after the landslide on Sunday March 12, Lori Anderson-Printy, OA Board President and Dr. Todd Bolotin, an OA Medical Team Physician headed to Ethiopia to join the rescue effort. The following day, Stacy and Brad Segebarth, OA’s Founders also traveled to Ethiopia. The OA team was among the first foreigners to arrive on the ground in Korah. Although we had limited information about what to expect, we were determined to provided whatever aid and comfort possible.
As of this writing, we know that one precious OA student was killed and 14 OA families suffered losses due to the landslide. The sponsors of those families have been notified. Please pray for these sponsors who grieve alongside their Ethiopian families. We have also been notified that several more families have been asked to leave their homes because of the threat of another destabilization. Please know that we will share news as soon as it become available. If you have specific concerns
about your sponsored child please feel free to contact Stacy at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are asking for your patience on getting specific family information. Our staff in Korah is working very hard to get all of the family information but it is not an easy task given the situation.
The enormity of the landslide area is unfathomable. Even as the OA team boarded planes to Ethiopia, they could not have imagined the size and scale of the disaster. It’s hard to get perfect facts but we were told more than 100 houses and 300 people, were buried by the falling avalanche of trash. The victims many of whom were women and children at home for the evening, were buried so quickly there was no chance for escape. According to witnesses, the trash started rolling and the houses came down on top of each other until it hit the bottom. The trash at the bottom of the hill stands now stands about 15 feet high.
Emergency crews, community members and even many of our kids dug hour after hour, day after day searching for survivors. Heavy equipment was used to help with the dig and huge hauler trucks moved waste from the rescue area in a nonstop parade. We were told that it could take more than a month to sift through all the trash at the accident sight. The death toll which most believe has been underreported is expected to rise well above 150 because many are still missing. As one of our kids put it, “we won’t ever really know truly how many people actually died because a lot of people have nobody that know them”.
At the largest church in Korah 54 victims were buried on Monday March 13, 40 on Tuesday March 14 and 25 on Wednesday March 15. Estimates of ten to twenty thousand mourners were in attendance each day. Many funerals went on without bodies since most have not been recovered. The funerals are expected to continue, possible for weeks. The Prime Minster of Ethiopia has declared a National Three-Day Mourning.
OA connected with Ethiopian UNICEF officials, who have established a “tent city” to provide temporary housing for those displaced by the landslide. In this resettlement camp there is a medical clinic, food service, housing and distribution of clothing and hygiene products. The resettlement camp is filled with 500-600 people Mostly women and children) displaced by the landslide however more are expected once the men in community complete the recovery effort and join their families.
UNICEF officials provided OA with a list of the most needed general provisions and medical supplies and using the donations made for the landslide OA was able to provide; baby formula, bottles, diapers, tooth brushes and toothpaste, and shampoo and soap and more than $4,000 of medical supplies, drugs and equipment. While not on the official list. we also provided crates full of toys and activities for the kids. In a disaster like this, we felt was important for “kids to be kids” and escape the trauma around them to whatever extent possible. We saw kids light up as they chased bubbles and tomorrow they will have coloring books and crayons, chalk, soccer balls and basket balls and badminton to play with. This is how kids heal.
Separate from our support of the UNICEF camp, OA provided a month’s supply of food for 30 of the victims families. We also provided meals to over 500 mourners. In a small offer of comfort and shared grief, the OA team on the ground personally served one meal at the funeral tents were several OA families were grieving. OA also provided clothing and mattresses for the families who lost their homes as well as providing for the specific and immediate needs for our students and their families.
OA is now working on a mid-range plan to help the children and families (Not just OA) displaced by the landslide or still living at risk in the dump, but for now, there isn’t much we can do beyond meeting basic needs, because frankly, the entire community is in mourning. Their days are spent in funeral tents surrounded by friends and family and, each afternoon the dead are buried in mass funerals. We did not want to intrude during this difficult and sacred time. Over the next several weeks as the funeral tents come down the survivors will emerge from their grief to face their “new normal”. When they do, OA will be there.
Out of the Ashes, is committed to not letting the community of Korah be forgotten again. We want to thank everyone who donated to the landslide efforts so far. The outpouring of love and prayer have not gone unnoticed. The recovery work is far from over. It will take years to rebuild and a lifetime to heal. Please continue to pray. We will continue to update as we have more information.