THE Bishop of Litoral Ecuador, the Rt Revd Alfredo Morante, has described the condition of his country after the earthquake that struck the west coast last week.
“It is horrible . . . as if we were in a war zone,” he told the Episcopal News Service. “The people missing, the wounded, the increasing number of deaths that are reported. . . We are all one. We are united by prayer, asking for peace in these difficult times when nature has attacked. As we prepare to provide the help that is needed, we ask for your prayers and your support.”
In a message on the Facebook page of the Episcopal Church in Ecuador, the Bishop quoted Psalm 46.1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” He expressed gratitude for messages of support.
“We have lived an unforgettable experience, in which we feared for our lives, our loved ones, and the lives of the members of our community of faith, where we cling with deep fervour to the protecting hand of our God.
“Looking at the pictures in newspapers and social networks of what happened, I just think about the suffering of our fellow countrymen.
“I ask for comfort and solidarity for all the people who have lost loved ones, so that God will encourage them and restore them in his infinite mercy and goodness.”
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Michael Curry, also prayed for Ecuador. “Please know that your brothers and sisters throughout the Episcopal Church are praying for you. We will be with you during this time and in the days ahead. You are not alone. May the love of God embrace and strengthen you.”
An earthquake of 7.8 magnitude struck Ecuador’s Pacific coast last Saturday evening. It is the deadliest to hit the country since a 7.2-magnitude earthquake killed more than a thousand people in March 1987.
As rescue work continues across the country, the casualties have risen: 507 people are known to have died. More than 2500 have been injured, and 231 people are still missing. Thousands of troops have been deployed to assist regional police and emergency services.
After returning from a state visit to Italy, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correra, extended a state of emergency across the entire country.
Among the dead in the province of Manabi were an Irish nun and five postulants. Their order, the Home of the Mother, said: “We ask for prayers for our Sisters and their families. We do not want to enclose our hearts in our own suffering, but to embrace the pain of the entire Ecuadorian people.”
Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, aged 33, originally from Derry in Northern Ireland, was killed attempting to rescue others at the school where she taught.
The charity Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has started to provide assistance in the country, and has said that water, food, and emergency shelter are the priorities.
CRS’s representative for South America, Tom Hollywood, said: “Some of the poorest provinces are located near the coast, and we expect thousands of people to need immediate help.”
The charity World Vision is also helping the relief effort. Its director, José Luis Ochoa, said: “Our prayers go out for the people of Ecuador, especially those who have lost homes and loved ones. This was a truly terrifying event felt across the country. Our first priority is to provide temporary shelter and aid kits, and keep children safe.”