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Public gives to El Salvador's displaced

BY SUSAN KIM | Baltimore | January 17, 2001

ACT, an alliance of some 200 protestant and orthodox churches and aid agencies, reported that 19,064 people are evacuated from unstable

homes. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) reported that the earthquake destroyed more than 16,000 homes and

damaged another 46,000.

Thousands of families are living outdoors, afraid of further injury if they return to weakened or collapsed homes. They have gathered in

parks and other public spaces, where churches, aid organizations, and the government assist them, according to Rudelmar Bueno de Fariam

of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

ACT is distributing food and other items in two relief centers, one in Santa Tecla for 300 people and the other in San Salvador for 3,000

people. ACT members are also trying to reach rural areas accessible only by helicopter or on foot.

The 7.6 magnitude quake has left nearly 700 dead, with hundreds more more counted as missing.

ADRA is conducting a needs assessment and, like many aid agencies, urged the public to donate cash and not goods. "We are appealing for

cash donations because people need help right now," said Frank Teeuwen, ADRA bureau chief for disaster preparedness and response.

"Shipping food and material items will take too much time. People's lives have been completely turned upside down."

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.

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.

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 sent an emergency

grant of $15,000 to its partners, the Lutheran Church of El Salvador and the Emmanuel Baptist Church. WOC also sent $6,000 to CWS as

part of a larger ecumenical response.

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


Leaders from Assemblies of God (AG) churches in El Salvador met to assess damage and plan a response. AG churches in the U.S. and

across the globe plan to distribute food, send teams to rebuild churches, and provide financial assistance.

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.

AmeriCares sent 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.

In addition, AmeriCares sent a cargo plane on Wednesday with more than 40,000 pounds of antibiotics, analgescis, and other emergency supplies. AmeriCares staff are at the disaster site distributing the supplies to makeshift hospitals, shelters, and clinics.

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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