Earthquake in Ecuador
“Funerals in the streets”
Many Ecuadorians experienced the earthquake in churches because “it was the hour of the Mass”
An odor of decomposition and combustion floats in the streets of the Ecuadorian city of Portoviejo. People desperately ask for water, food and blankets. No one is sleeping in his house, even those whose houses are still standing. In an interview with the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Walter Coronel, missionary Fidei Donum in the Archdiocese of Portoviejo said through tears: “We are afraid that the earth is still shaking.”
It is 11 am in San Gregorio de Portoviejo. The thermometer reads 33 degrees. It is winter in the capital of the province of Manabi. Several days before the earthquake, heavy rain had hammered down for over twelve hours, forcing hundreds of people to leave their homes. Originally from Portoviejo, the missionary had gone there a few days, leaving the activities it is conducting in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
“It was two minutes before the start of the mass at seven o’clock on Saturday morning. Father Roberto Carlos Garviami was about to introduce myself to the one hundred faithful in the church of San José Picoaza when the ground began to shake. The earthquake was very, very powerful. Suddenly, a few centimeters away from me, a large section of the roof collapsed and buried Father Roberto. «In seconds, fear, blood and cries invaded the parish.
Broken-down churches and funeral on street corners
“I clutched two unknown persons in my arms. I could only pray and ask God for this to end as quickly as possible.” According to unofficial sources, there were no deaths in the church of San José Picoaza. But many people lost their lives in the churches of the Archdiocese and the Cathedral of Portoviejo.
The epicenter of the magnitude 7.9 earthquake was located 150 km from Portoviejo. Because of the earthquake, the buildings collapsed like houses of cards. There are more places to celebrate Mass, says Ecuadorian priest. The few churches which were not completely destroyed are full of cracks and the walls may collapse. “With Every discovery of a new victim, we celebrate the funeral in the street, at the corner of ruined houses.”
For now, it is still almost impossible to determine the number of dead because in the hills, entire rural areas are buried under rocks and trees. So far, nobody has been able to access it. “We know nothing about the people in the countryside. No one could get there. We are completely overwhelmed. ”
The more time passes, the less chance of finding survivors under the rubble. People are just beginning to realize what has happened to their homes, and the situation is deteriorating rapidly, confirms Walter father. Desperate, he adds: “The bodies begin to decompose. We have no water supply, and electricity is constantly interrupted. Our country is not prepared for this. ”
A community in solidarity
Since the earthquake, the website of the Archdiocese of Portoviejo has not been updated, which proves – in the circumstances – a providential coincidence. Indeed, the site’s cover photo shows a poster on the Year 2016 home, under the motto “To welcome is to be happy to welcome a brother.” For the Ecuadorian people share the little they have with their countrymen. “People light fires in the streets and do the cooking for everyone, even for strangers.”
Father Walter Coronel has appealed to the international community and asks for help to get the Ecuadorian people out of this desperate situation. Aid to the Church in Need, which already supports several projects in the country, is now giving its support to help brothers and sisters in distress, through various emergency and reconstruction programs.
By M.Z. de la Morena, Aid to the Church in Need
Translated and adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada