A devastating magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck Chile early this morning, Saturday, February 27, 2010, shattering buildings and bridges, killing at least 78 people and setting off a tsunami that threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe.
Messages of compassion, concern and support have been sent to Rev. Ulises Muñoz, Obispo Iglesia Pentecostal de Chile; Rosario Castillo, Educación Popular en Salud (EPES); Dora Canales, Comunidad Teológica de Chile, Disciples/UCC-Global Ministries Partners, and Elena Huegel, missionary with Global Ministries.
Praise be to God, we have received news from the Bishop of the Pentecostal Church of Chile, who has not heard of any deaths of church members. There was some damage of homes in Curico and Talca, but homes were not destroyed. Elena Huegel, our beloved friend and missionary, was in the mountains at Centro Shalom with the whole staff. Everyone is well and they are on their way down from the mountain. Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.
Church World Service emergency response staff have also been in contact with colleagues on the ground in Chile, who report their people are safe. CWS has worked in Chile to provide emergency preparedness training and assistance to the country's sizable population of Colombians, displaced to Chile by conflict. CWS works with two Chilean agencies, FASIC (Fundacion de Ayuda Social de las Iglesia Cristianas) and IMECH, the Methodist Church of Chile.
As part of the international ACT Alliance network, CWS will work to provide emergency assistance such as food, water and shelter to those affected by this disaster. CWS staff continue to be in contact with people in Chile and colleagues in other ACT Alliance agencies to ensure a timely and responsible response. CWS staff are also preparing for a tsunami response in Hawaii should any be needed.
Week of Compassion emergency solidarity grants were immediately authorized for three Global Ministries partners in Chile and Church World Service to support relief initiatives.
Week of Compassion and Global Ministries staff are monitoring the unfolding disaster situation and will continue to update you as we receive more information.
How Can You Help?
1. Pray for the people of Chile, their leaders, our partners, and emergency response workers.
2. Please help the people of Chile by sending or donating on-line gifts to Week of Compassion, designated for Chile Earthquake and Tsunami Relief.
Thank you for your ongoing support, trust, and courageous compassion. We continue to trust in God's ubiquitous presence and love.
Week of Compassion continues to monitor the situation in Chile. We pray for those affected. We will post more information very soon with opportunities for you to donate. Please check our site and Facebook page soon.
UPDATE: 2/27/2010 02:19PM CST
SITUATION: A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit central Chile early today, causing damage throughout the South American country and triggering tsunami warnings in the Pacific basin.
As of mid-afternoon today, the death toll stood at 122 in Chile though is expected to rise, The New York Times reported. Damage was particularly heavy in Concepción. That city, Chile's second-largest metropolitan area, is located only 70 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.
The tsunami warning was issued throughout the Western Hemisphere, and in Hawaii, low-lying areas there are being evacuated. The tsunami already reached Peru, with some coastline damage.
The Times reported that the Chilean quake is being called "vastly more powerful" than the 7.0-magnitude quake that caused massive destruction in Haiti last month.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe" in her country saying: "We have had a huge earthquake -- We're doing everything we can with all the resources we have." The president said international assistance was not yet needed.
"Chile has a pretty strong national emergency management system in place and has dealt in the past with a number of catastrophic disasters," said Donna Derr, who coordinates emergency response for Church World Service.
Derr added: "While there are historic areas in the country which are certainly most extremely vulnerable in events such as earthquakes, most of the newer housing has been built to earthquake mitigation standards
which are now required there; there is also a strong regional system in place for provision of resources, such as search and rescue operational assistance between Chile and its neighbors."
RESPONSE: Church World Service has been in contact with local partners in Chile, including Fundación de Ayuda de las Iglesias Cristianas, known by the acronym FASIC, and the Methodist Church of Chile and with members of the ACT Alliance. ACT Alliance members active in Chile include the Lutheran World Federation and the regional organization Centro Regional Ecuménico de Asesoría y Servicio, known by the acronym CREAS. The partners in Chile are conducting assessments.
CWS staff have been in contact with the Hawaii Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. CWS has long ties in Hawaii with the VOAD and with the United Church of Christ, a CWS-member denomination.
UPDATE: 2/27/2010 03:07PM CST