Gurinder Osan, Associated Press
As the death toll from the south Asian tsunami continued to rise Monday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was among aid organizations providing immediate assistance to disaster victims.
The church issued a statement Monday saying it "expects that a major humanitarian response will be required."
Across Utah, humanitarian efforts included:
The Salt Lake-based nonprofit Globus Relief was raising funds to send medical, food and hygiene supplies within the week.
The Greater Salt Lake Area chapter of the American Red Cross collected donations for relief efforts by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society.
In St. George, high school students decided to start their own relief efforts, collecting cash donations along with clothing, blankets and other supplies for disaster victims.
Russell Behrmann, chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau of Utah, advised those who wish to donate to relief efforts to use caution, noting that many agencies don't have the means to provide disaster assistance.
"We urge potential donors in Utah to stick with existing U.S. and local charities that have a proven track record for delivering aid to such international destinations," he said.
Behrmann suggested the American Red Cross or local religious congregations as safe donation targets.
LDS Church leaders in Asia provided local resources supplemented by humanitarian funds from LDS church headquarters, the church statement said. A Welfare Services representative from Salt Lake City and a welfare manager for Asia were en route to the disaster area to complete an assessment in cooperation with government officials and international relief organizations.
Emergency medical supplies and other materials were being purchased locally in affected countries to speed relief to heavily impacted areas, the statement said.
"We are heartbroken to learn that thousands have lost their lives and extend our deepest sympathies to the families whose loved ones have perished in this disaster," said Bishop H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the church, in the statement. "We believe in the power of prayer. We encourage all to pray for those who are suffering as well as for those who are providing emergency relief."
In St. George, 18-year-old Snow Canyon High School senior Casie McNaughton said she was struck by the personal accounts of those who survived the South Asia disaster.
"I really wanted to make a difference, somehow," said McNaughton. "We can help people across the world at their time of need. . . . I just thought this would be a great way to help other people."
McNaughton started calling others to help out shortly after she started work at 5 a.m., and had collected a $200 donation from Stanger Toyota by the afternoon.
McNaughton said donations will be collected for the next two weeks at St. George Maverik Country Stores. Her group, Utah Teens for International Outreach, is also sending letters to area high schools asking for help. The donations, to be collected for two weeks, will likely be sent to a Jehovah's Witnesses office in the disaster area, she said.
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