Aiding Algeria's victims

When human disaster strikes in any part of the world, it reminds us anew of the communality of all mankind. Tragedy knows no boundaries and the response to it springs from a recognition that we indeed are all of one family. So it is that many nations of the international community are pouring money and other humanitarian aid into Algeria in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes there.

Early help was swift -- from Switzerland, France, the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and other governments. At this writing some 15 national Red Cross societies had also pledged contributions in cash or in kind. It can be expected that thousands of private citizens, too, will generously join the massive aid effort. Algeria's first priorities are to dig out from under the wreckage, search for the missing, and take care of the tens of thousands killed or injured. That in itself is an enormous and exhausting task.

Later the need will be for sustained international assistance in order to begin rebuilding. About 80 percent of the city of Al Asnam was totally destroyed and at least a quarter of a million people in a broad region made homeless. In view of the fact that this was the second earthquake in this spot in a little more than 25 years -- Al Asnam sits astride a major seismic fault -- thought may have to be given either to relocating the town or reconstructing in a way to assure safety from further shocks.

For the moment, however, the people of Algeria grapple with their grief and the ordeal of putting their lives together again. Surely their world neighbors will spare no effort to alleviate that anguish -- through compassionate prayer and a practical expression of it.

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