PIME missionary in Thailand: Help needed to rebuild after earthquake
One woman died and at least 25 were wounded; more than 180 aftershocks over two days. Fr. . Valerio Sala confirms: "We are in the middle of an earthquake swarm". The hostel which was supposed to host high school students collapses. Government promises aid , but contributions from abroad “would be greatly appreciated”.

Bangkok ( AsiaNews) - "We are right in the middle of an earthquake swarm.  At 4 am this morning we were still having aftershocks, another very strong last night at 9:15 am with a magnitude of 5. According to experts, the movement will continue for at least a week". This is what PIME missionary (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) Fr. Valerio Aula, tells AsiaNews.  The priest who has been in Thailand for five years, described the powerful earthquake that hit the north of the country on the evening of May 5. With a magnitude of 6.3 , the main shock struck Chiang Rai province, on the northern border with Laos and Myanmar, at  a depth of just 7.4 km. An 83 year old woman died and at least 25 other people were wounded; more than 180 aftershocks have been registered by geologists, six of which were very strong.

The Italian missionary - from Carugate (Milan) - says that "Thais are very fatalistic" and coexist with natural events of this type. People behave "as if nothing had happened", others "take what the government says literally and do not move from their homes"; like three years ago during devastating floods, "there were no scenes of panic ."

Fr. Aula is assistant pastor at Holy Spirit Catholic center of Mae Suaj ( "Beautiful Mother" in the local language -ed), a village in Chiang Rai province about 30 kilometers from the epicenter of the main quake . "With regard to our mission - he says - the goal is to restore the hostel, which has recently been subject to a major restoration. From accommodation for elementary school children, it had to be converted to student for high school. It was supposed to have housed at least twenty , but the earthquake caused serious damage to three-quarters of the structure [which is not far from the epicenter-ed], including the church used for  Mass".

"We hope in the help of government - adds the PIME missionary - who has already promised assistance; as a parish we are also recognized as an NGO for our social work. And we rely on this for funding for reconstruction, because the school year begins soon and we do not know where house the students. Having said that, if there were any aid from abroad, from Italy, it would be most welcome ... we need about 40 thousand euros to complete the work".

"Although an earthquake zone - Fr. Aula concludes - this is the first time I have ever experienced an earthquake".  At the time of the quake , the priest was on retreat camp with a group of young people , about 300 miles away , but "I still felt the earthquake very well". However, the city of Chiang Rai ( about 80 thousand inhabitants) withstood the impact and there was no serious damage, because "there are no huge skyscrapers , houses are typically two or three floors and also this has helped contain the toll of victims and the injured". (DS)