Rebuilding From The Rubble

Payson-based organization helps city recover from quake

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More than 1 million El Salvadorans have been affected by the earthquake that rattled Guatemala Jan. 13, and some 500,000 of them have been left homeless.

That sobering estimate comes from Payson's Randy Roberson.

In his capacity as president of the World/Aid disaster-relief organization, Roberson recently visited the rubble and ruin to provide money, water purification systems, food and medical supplies to the quake's victims.

Although Roberson has returned home, World/Aid's efforts are continuing full-force, he said.

"With more than 2,000 aftershocks registered since the earthquake, many people are still afraid to move back into their homes," Roberson said. "Relief teams will continue to assist 100,000 people over the next few months who are ... currently sheltered with family, friends, or even in front of their damaged homes."

The 32-second earthquake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and occurred a half hour after midnight, was epicentered in the El Salvadoran city of Armenia. National news reports have put the death toll at more than 700 people, but others including Payson's Dr. Gary Cornette, who also performed volunteer work in the aftermath of the Guatamalan quake have put the death toll as high as 900.

According to Roberson, the number is higher still.

"Nearly 1,000 (have been) confirmed dead," he said. "The search for bodies buried in rubble and landslides continues."

Additionally, more than 189,000 homes were damaged in the earthquake, and 75,000 of those were completely destroyed.

Roberson and World/Aid, meanwhile, continue to solicit assistance from other relief, civic and church organizations, as well as corporate and individual support. Interested donors can call Roberson at 472-8838, or by mail at World/Aid, P.O. Box 393, Payson, AZ 85547.

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