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El Salvador response focuses on next quake

BY HENRY BRIER | EL SALVADOR | July 24, 2001


"The country has been in a continuous tremor. The people have suffered and they can't really trust the ground beneath their feet."

—Abigail Nelson


An intensive rebuilding effort is underway in El Salvador despite the

strong belief that another destructive quake will occur soon as

suggested by persisting tremors and aftershocks.

The small Central American country has recently experienced

earthquakes causing thousands of deaths and injuries and forced

homelessness for nearly one million people.

"We're trying to respond to the emergency on several fronts," said

Abigail Nelson of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). "The motto

is to plant the seeds of development."

She said much of the effort is oriented toward preparing for the next

sizable earthquake because it is not considered an "if" -- but a

when. Many laborers are concentrating on building more durable houses

that can better withstand the next earthquake.

"The country has been in a continuous tremor," Nelson said. "The

people have suffered and they can't really trust the ground beneath

their feet."

In cooperation with local partners, ERD recently embarked on a

three-year $2.2 million integrated approach, according to Nelson, the

director of Latin American programs.

Some rural communities, located on the southern coast with a

population of about 6.1 million, lost up to 85 percent of its

housing, according to Marcia Mantel, spokeswoman for Christian

Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC).

"They are now in the rebuilding phase, and there are some very

capable El Salvadorean people there," said Paul Montacute, director

of Baptist World Aid.

As a result of a January 13 earthquake that measured 7.9 on the

Richter scale, one in February measuring 6.6, one in March measuring

4.9 and thousands of aftershocks among the three quakes, more than

1,000 died, more than 4,000 are missing, and almost 3,000 were

injured, according to officials.

Mantel said the effort put forth by the Christian Reformed World

Relief Committee is to work alongside the Salvadoreans as a group effort. She said CRWRC has assisted local partners in community development projects in El Salvador since 1976.

"We are working toward the place where the communities are

independent and self sufficient," Mantel said. "The goal is to

encourage independence."

Montacute said Baptist World Aid has been involved in response in El

Salvador since January, and part of the effort includes delivering

goods and commodities.

The effort also includes redevelopment, which focuses on some

buildings and communities whose agricultural means and resources were

damaged or destroyed.

"They are prepared. We give them materials," Montacute said. The key

words are trust, empower and enable."

But response to the situation in El Salvador has been impacted by a

similar event on the other side of the world.

Shortly after the largest quake hit earlier this year, Northern India

sustained an earthquake that registered 6.9 and destroyed homes and

villages.

"The Indian earthquake kind of overtook the response for El Salvador

in terms of interested people who want to volunteer" and contribute,

explained Donna Derr, associate director of international emergency

response for Church World Service.


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