Earthquake and Tsunamis Strike Japan

An 8.9-magnitude earthquake, the strongest recorded in Japan's history, has triggered a tsunami affecting northern Japan, killing hundreds.   The tsunami triggered warnings throughout Asia and coastal areas of the US and Latin America. Evacuations were reported in coastal areas in the US, including Oregon. Waves that hit Hawaii early today did not cause major damage, according to news reports, but we will continue to monitor the situation.

The worst-hit area in Japan was the northeastern port city of Sendai, which was the closest metropolitan area to the quake's epicenter.  Officials said up to 300 bodies were found; the death toll there and elsewhere is expected to rise, the New York Times reported.

Week of Compassion, through our partners, is closely watching the situation along the U.S. Pacific Coast and around the Pacific Rim.  We have been in touch with our regional ministers along the West Coast in the case that needs emerge should the tsunamis cause damage.  In addition, Church World Service domestic response teams are monitoring the situation in Hawaii and the West Coast.

Through Global Ministries, WoC has already responded to our primary partner, the United Church of Christ in Japan, with an initial emergency response grant and will continue to be in close touch with them as they respond to this devastating tragedy. 

We offer you this beautiful prayer written by the Rev. Dr. John Tamilio, pastor of Pilgrim United Christian Church in Cleveland, Ohio, in hopes that you might find it helpful as you pray for our sisters and brothers in Japan. 

If you are moved to respond to this humanitarian crisis, please donate online.

Thank you for your ongoing support and partnership in times like these.  I send you my heartfelt gratitude.

Chile earthquake: ACT works with the government

The 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile - one of the most powerful recorded – has killed more than 700 people, but the figure is expected to increase. Troops are being deployed to help with rescue efforts and prevent looting. A curfew is enforced in some areas. Basic supplies are to be distributed as rescuers reach worst-hit areas.
The government has started its emergency operations to deal with the destruction caused by the massive earthquake. Juan Salazar of ACT member FASIC, is a member of the government’s National Emergency Committee. He says damage is worse than reported. “The information that arises each time indicates that the effects are much greater than originally assessed,” Salazar says. He has met Chilean president Michelle Bachelet for discussion on the emergency response.
“The city is in chaos”
Worst hit is Concepcion. The president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile (IELCH), Rev. Gloria Rojas, reports that the situation in the city is chaotic, with much destruction. Some affected families are housed in church buildings and have lost everything. Many people are staying on the streets because their houses are partially destroyed or who fear new aftershocks.
It is starting to rain in the region, increasing fears the situation may worsen.  No fuel is available, which makes movement difficult, and water is scarce. Communities are using bottled water. They are sharing food with the nearest neighbors. The Lutheran Church is ready to assess the affected areas together with other organizations.
ACT support
ACT Alliance General Secretary John Nduna says many ACT members are ready to support the work CWS is doing in Chile, and some are already in place. “Our members will try to supplement the effort of the government, especially in communities where our local partners have been operating for years.”
Church World Service works with two Chilean agencies, FASIC (Fundacion de Ayuda Social de las Iglesias Cristianas) and IMECH, the Methodist Church of Chile. As part of the international ACT Alliance network, CWS will provide emergency assistance such as food, water and shelter.
1.5 million homes destroyed
President Bachelet said two million people had been affected by the earthquake. It is feared the damage may cost tens of billions of dollars.
Restoring public service
Jose Abumohor, of Chile's national emergency centre, said efforts were already under way to restore public services. "The aim is as soon as possible that we manage to reach a state of normality," he said. Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez said Chile did not want aid offers to be "a distraction", adding: "Any aid that arrives without having been determined to be needed really helps very little."

Response to Earthquake in Chile

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


We just got news from the Bishop of the Pentecostal Church of Chile.  He has not heard of any deaths of church members.  There was some damage of homes in Curico and Talca, but homes weren't destroyed.  Elena Huegel, the 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.
Susan M. Sanders
United Church of Christ