Emergency Appeal: IOCC Responds to Worst Australian Wildfires

Baltimore, MD (February 13, 2009) — The worst wildfires in Australia’s history have caused 181 confirmed deaths and left hundreds of people homeless. More than 900 houses were destroyed and some 7,000 people have requested assistance from humanitarian agencies. International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is issuing an emergency appeal and has released initial funds to assess the situation and assist the Orthodox churches in Australia to mobilize a response.

“We turn to you in this most difficult hour for all peoples of Australia, a time when every soul mourns and suffers due to the great and horrific tragedies which have befallen our Continent,” said His Grace IRINEJ (Dobrijevic) Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Australia and New Zealand, a long time co-worker of IOCC and former Board Member before his elevation to the episcopacy. “We appeal to every person of good will to respond to the best of your ability to this tragedy and manifest your charity and love,” His Grace continued.

The fires were driven by 62 mile per hour winds and temperatures peaking at 117°F in the southeast state of Victoria where most of the damage occurred. Large parts of Queensland are also suffering from floods caused by tropical downpours.

Many survivors are claiming that there was no time for an orderly evacuation and that people died taking refuge in homes that collapsed in minutes. As officials call for an inquiry to review the response, firefighters continue to battle more than two dozen wildfires.

Help IOCC speed relief to communities devastated by the worst fires in Australia’s history. Visit www.iocc.org, call IOCC toll free at 1-877-803-4622, or mail a check or money order payable to “IOCC” and write “Australia Relief” in the memo line to: IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, Md. 21297-0429.

IOCC, founded in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), has implemented over $300 million in relief and development programs in more than 33 countries around the world.