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Aid rushed to help earthquake survivors

BY SUSAN KIM | Baltimore | January 15, 2001

Rescue teams were still digging for survivors and relief officials feared the death toll -- at 400 Monday -- could grow to more than 1,000. Relief officials report that some towns have been completely destroyed.

Father Octavio Cruz, who serves as a local El Salvador contact for Lutheran World Relief (LWR), said that, since the country still hasn't

recovered from 1998's Hurricane Mitch, the earthquake's effects were magnified. "When the quake struck, the electricity went out and most

telephones are not working," he said. "The most severe loss of life and damages are in the towns and villages south of the capital (San

Salvador). It is a terrible sight to see.

"The poor will suffer because so much of the construction in the towns is old adobe. There are bodies along the roadsides, also in the rivers

where people were fishing, washing clothes, or bathing.

"The tremors continue every hour, some stronger, some weaker."

Disaster response organizations from around the world are responding.

Action by Churches Together (ACT), an alliance of some 200 protestant and orthodox churches and aid agencies, released $50,000 for response. ACT members in El Salvador, the Lutheran World Federation and Salvadoran Lutheran Church (SLC), sent emergency teams to the hardest hit areas. On Sunday the SLC opened two relief centers, one in Santa Tecla for 300 survivors and another in San Salvador for 3,000 survivors.

Food, blankets, and mattresses are being distributed to survivors. ACT members are also working with other international organizations

such as International Plan and Medicos del Mundo and the World Food Program.

LWR is providing financial assistance to local programs in El Salvador to meet immediate relief and counseling needs. LWR is working with

CEPRODE, a local disaster prevention and response organization.

LWR leaders and other relief workers emphasized that most relief supplies can still be purchased within Central American and so cash

donations are needed more than material goods.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is sending One Great Hour of Sharing funds to its partners in El Salvador. Funds will be used to

provide blankets, plastic sheeting, food, and water. PDA's Latin American emergency facilitator is traveling to El Salvador to help assess damages, offer relief, and provide pastoral care.

Baptist World Aid is sending $10,000 for relief, with $5,000 going to the Baptist Association of El Salvador and $5,000 going to the Bapist

Federation of El Salvador.

AmeriCares is sending an airlift of relief supplies on Tuesday, and staff from that relief group are on the scene assessing needs. AmeriCares reported that many survivors are in need of medical care, and that temporary hospitals may have to be created to treat the wounded.

International Aid is also assessing the situation in El Salvador and has been in contact with its field aid in Honduras for possible assistance.

The quake, measured at a magnitude of 7.6, was centered off the Salvadoran coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey National

Earthquake Information Center in Colorado. El Salvador was by far the hardest hit.

"It was felt from Mexico City to high-rise buildings in Colombia," said Waverly Person, a geo-physicist with the Earthquake Information

Center.

Emergency officials said thousands of buildings may have been destroyed.

"There appears to be a lot of damage," Person said. "Communications are knocked out" in much of the area.

Landslides in and around San Salvador were reported to have buried hundreds of homes. Many roads were completely blocked by

mudslides and landslides. There were also reports of a bus buried by a landslide in Tecolouca, east of San Salvador.

Throughout El Salvador and Guatemala, there are reports of collapsed buildings. The San Salvador airport reopened by Monday.

Honduran officials reported cracked walls in many buildings but had no reports of injuries.

A 1986 earthquake near San Salvador, killed 1,500 people and injured thousands more.

Southern California also reported several small earthquakes Saturday. One earthquake that measured 4.3, struck an area near Los Angeles,

but no damage was reported.


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