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Workers care for quake survivors

BY SUSAN KIM | Baltimore | January 16, 2001

The 7.6 magnitude quake has left more than 650 dead, with at least 500 more counted as missing on Tuesday. Tens of thousands of people

are homeless and frightening aftershocks continued on Tuesday. The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) reported that

8,000 homes are destroyed and 17,000 are damaged.

Relief workers from faith-based groups are ministering to quake survivors.

Relief supplies were also rushed quickly to El Salvador. But many rural areas remain cut off, according to reports from Action by Churches

Together (ACT), an alliance of some 200 protestant and orthodox churches and aid agencies.

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."

Most of the victims so far have been pulled from the San Salvador suburb of Santa Tecla, where a massive mudslide engulfed as many as 500

midde-class homes.

"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," said Cruz.

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

Disaster response organizations from around the world are responding. "Sometimes it's easy to be hardened to see the news reports of

these people but when you are face to face with their reality and see how much a little bit of love and concern can do it breaks your heart,"

wrote a missionary who works with the Family Care Foundation.

ACT 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. 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.

ACT is also planning to issue an emergency appeal, and Church World Service (CWS) is posed to make an appeal in conjunction with ACT's.

Week of Compassion (WOC), a giving program coordinated by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), is also responding in conjunction

with ACT and CWS. WOC is also sending an emergency grant of $15,000 to its partners, the Lutheran Church of El Salvador and the

Emmanuel Baptist Church.

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 staff have been distributing tarps, blankets, and mosquito nets to

quake survivors. "Our goal is to reach those who often get left out in relief efforts, especially the rural poor," said LWR President Kathryn


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

donations are needed more than material goods.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is responding through ACT and through the Methodist Church in El Salvador.

UMCOR is also sending an international disaster response consultant who will assess damages and needs.

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.

The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) also plans to respond and is working with ANAES and the Fundacion Mercedes Ruiz, partner

agencies in El Salvador, to assess needs.

MCC worker Audrey Hess said she was preparing to visit a shelter near Santa Tecla. "We'll be delivering clothes and food, and we are

helping them get some plastic for temporary shelters," she said.

CRWRC is also responding, working with local staff to assess needs.

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.

Christians from around Latin America, many affiliated with Latin America Mission (LAM), are also responding. "It will be an absolute

miracle if the death toll from this disaster doesn't go well over 1,000," said Craig Rice, a LAM missionary.

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, a health-focused Christian relief agency based in Michigan, is sending two shipments of relief supplies to El Salvador that contain medicines, medical equipment, food, and personal hygiene kits. More shipments could follow, the group reported, and plans are

being explored to send an assessment team to the area.

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 though the quake was felt for a distance of more than

1,100 miles.

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


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