Chilean situation is ‘critical’, Bishop warns after quake

by
03 March 2010

by Bill Bowder

ANGLICAN parish communities in Chile, hit by a serious earthquake — the fifth-largest on record — that devastated the city of Concepción last Saturday, are sheltering together in tents for safety and to share food and water, says their Bishop, the Rt Revd Héctor Zavala.

Bishop Zavala was expected to arrive in Concepción on Wednesday after travelling for at least ten hours across broken roads. On Tuesday, he asked his colleague Ricardo Tucas to send the following report:

“[The Bishop] is now travelling to the devastated region of Con­cepción, which holds three of his urban churches, and was near three other rural congregations in the High Mountains of Bio-Bio. Four days following the massive earth­quake in Chile, many towns are still completely isolated . . .

“Andy Bowman, until recently a USPG Mission Companion in Concepción, said: ‘From the com­munications we have had with people in Santiago in the north, the situation in Concepción seems desperate. Half a million people in Concepción are isolated, without water, electricity, shelter, and food. Shops have been looted and civil unrest appears to be widespread. Seven thousand Chilean troops have been sent to the area to maintain order.

“‘The first emergency aid is trickling in after an air bridge was established between the airports in Santiago and Concepción, both of which were badly damaged.’

“The 8.8-magnitude earthquake on Saturday morning was so powerful it brought down buildings and bridges 500km away in Santiago. In the following three days there were 168 earthquake-severity aftershocks of between 4 and 6.9 magnitude.

“Andy said: ‘. . . the situation in Concepción is critical. The four Anglican congregations in Concepción are camping together in three sites for safety and for sharing the small amount of food available. There is a well at one of these sites; so USPG-support community worker Felipe Saravia is transporting water to the other two sites, where there is no water.’

“Anglican churches in Santiago are sending a fleet of vehicles to deliver food supplies, emergency equipment, nappies, and blankets. The vehicles set off on Tuesday, in one of them Bishop Zavala himself; however the roads are completely cut in at least four places. The journey will take at least ten hours.”

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, sent a letter to the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, in which he expressed “on behalf of the WCC, our prayers and deep solidarity with you, the relatives and friends of the victims, and the Chilean people”.

Dr Tveit said that the ecumenical movement was responding through service agencies of the ACT Alliance and Church World Service (CWS). “Through local Chilean partners, CWS will provide emergency assistance such as food, water, and shelter,” he said.

Deaths stood at just under 800 on Wednesday. The Red Cross of Chile said that 500,000 homes had been severely damaged. It was estimated that two million people had been left homeless.

Donations can be made through the USPG website: www.uspg.ie.

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