ACN sends emergency aid for earthquake victims in Ecuador
Many churches and parish structures have been totally destroyed
Water, blankets, torches, food, medicine, candles, mattresses, tents… They are asking for everything, because they have nothing… The situation people are facing in the coastal provinces of Ecuador is truly a tragic one, almost like a scene from a horror film. They need help, and they need it now. Time is passing and the situation is worsening rapidly.
“The decomposing bodies are becoming a health hazard, and the people are becoming desperate,” explains Archbishop Lorenzo Voltolini Esti of the archdiocese of Portoviejo in a letter to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need ACN, and the charity has responded immediately with emergency aid for the most urgent necessities. This aid will be followed later with a series of projects for reconstruction.
Water, blankets, torches, food, medicine, candles, mattresses, tents… They are asking for everything, because they have nothing…
Many localities in the northwestern coastal province of Manabi, around Jama, Pedernales, Cojimíes, San Isidro and Portoviejo, have suffered up to 90% destruction, the archbishop explains. In many of the suburban barrios, buildings built with a mixture of materials – cane, wood and brick – have been badly damaged. People have lost their homes and are now sleeping in the streets, squares or other open spaces, because they are terrified of the aftershocks that are constantly shaking the area. According to the official report of the country’s Geophysical Institute, there have been more than 550 aftershocks since last Saturday, 16 April, and it is likely that there will continue to be movements in the coming weeks, registering anything between 3.5 and 6.0 on the Richter Scale. (according to Caritas Ecuador on Wed 20 April 2016). This is something Ecuadorians have come to know about and fear.
The stadiums and sports halls have been turned into centres for the recovery and identification of the dead and for the celebration of mass funerals. Each day the number of victims grows, and even though by now there is almost no possibility of finding any survivors still living beneath the rubble, the priority for everyone, and which is still continuing by day and by night, is the search for lost loved ones among the ruins – “despite the fact they do not have the necessary equipment,” writes Archbishop Voltolini.
On top of all the anguish over the dead, the missing and the injured, there are the psychological injuries of the survivors, above all of the most vulnerable, the children and the aged, who in many cases have been left totally alone. According to information from Ecuador’s National Centre for Risk Management, the number of the injured currently being cared for is over 4,600, and the various refuges and centres for the homeless are currently housing around 20,500 people.
Churches and parish structures left completely beyond repair
Some of the churches in Portoviejo, Pedernales and Montecristi have been totally destroyed, while others have suffered around 80% destruction. Parish halls, catechetical centres, presbyteries, convents and monasteries, hostels and guesthouses have been destroyed, and those that have not been flattened are either very difficult to gain access to or else so badly damaged that they are at risk of imminent collapse. It is difficult for now to calculate the total cost of all the buildings destroyed or damaged, but the Archdiocese of Portoviejo expects it to be somewhere in the vicinity of 10 million dollars.
Many of the more rural areas in the countryside of Manabí province have not even been reached yet and so it is not known how many victims there are or how extensive the damage is. “What little information we have about them reaches us from time to time through the parish priests, the religious or other pastoral workers from the area”, Archbishop Voltolini tells ACN; though he calculates that around 75% of homes and parish structures in these areas may well have been destroyed.
So far the Catholic Church in Portoviejo is mourning the loss of two religious sisters, five postulants of the congregation of the Hijas del Hogar de la Madre and also has three priests who are seriously injured.
The Church must act as a mother to the most afflicted
“We are empty-handed.” These are the words, like a cry of despair, that the bishop has written in his letter to ACN, imploring help for this initial humanitarian phase, in the face of the terrible situation people are having to endure. “For now the aid is being distributed via the parishes, through the parish priests and other local pastoral workers. We want in this way to show the Merciful and Compassionate Face of Christ and his Body which is the Church,” he writes. “Every mother always comes to the aid of her children, including those who for various reasons have drifted away from her. The Church is their Mother and must act as such .”
As Metropolitan Archbishop, he asks our prayers for his people and at the same time expresses his gratitude for the “already proven charity” of ACN.
Translated and adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada