Following the massive 8.8 earthquake which hit near the city of Concepción, Chile on Saturday, the international Catholic aid organization Caritas mobilized Chilean and international task forces to help the nearly two million people affected by the quake.
“Caritas Chile is working in coordination with governmental and civil society organizations in establishing a national help network in spite of enormous communications difficulties,” said Lorenzo Figueroa, Caritas Chile’s director.
The international agency noted that the regions of Maule and Bío Bío were the worst affected and are will be the first to receive aid.
“We are collecting food to be sent immediately to communities which have been most affected by the earthquake and where shortages are already being reported. Our own communications network and capacity to offer warehouses and points of collection and distribution are immediately available,” Figueroa added.
Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga said, “Caritas Chile and the bishops are keeping us updated on the needs of the people. Chile has faced a terrible catastrophe. The Caritas confederation will be there in support of the survivors in this initial phase of emergency response and as they look to rebuild the country.”
Emergency response, as well as search and rescue teams from Caritas are on their way to the capital city of Santiago. The teams are drawn from an international pool, including Caritas’ Humanitarian Director Alistair Dutton and Caritas Peru’s Hector Hanashiro. The Mexican search and rescue team that recently worked with Caritas in Haiti will be a part of the relief efforts in Chile as well.
Father Alfonso Baeza Donoso, deputy president of Caritas Chile, reported to the Italian news Agency SIR that the earthquake was “a huge catastrophe, especially around Concepción. Our building suffered damage, communications do not work very well. Elevators are out or order, and we are on the seventh floor.” Fr. Baeza also noted that, despite the fact that “there are great difficulties in transport by road, since roads and bridges have been destroyed,” Caritas is working to get food and funds to the people most affected. Already, Caritas has opened a bank account to accept donations. Food is also being collected in several parishes in Santiago.
“In the center of Santiago,” Fr. Baeza added, “I saw at least five churches destroyed. In the south of the country, there must be many more, but we have no definite news yet.”
In an official statement, the President of the Chilean Bishop’s Conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic of Rancagua, expressed solidarity with the victims and their families. “The death of our brothers and sisters as a consequence of this catastrophe both hurts and moves/compels us. We direct our prayers for their eternal rest to the God of life and hope and we unite ourselves with their families and friends,” he said.
“We fix our gaze on the Lord Jesus Christ in this moment of tragedy,” Bishop Goic said. “We place our trust in Him that the communities which have suffered the most hurt may be able to lift themselves up both spiritually and materially, assisted by the solidarity of the entire country as well as the international community which generously offers us its help.”
For more information on Caritas relief efforts, visit: http://www.caritas.org