Last night around 6:40 pm, a gigantic 7.9 magnitude earthquake shook the South American country of Peru. The earthquake has resulted in at least 337 fatalities, hundreds of injured victims, and widespread structural damage to the country’s infrastructure.
Upon learning of the tragedy, the Holy Father sent a telegram to the Peruvian people through the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, which reads as follows:
His Holiness Benedict XVI, profoundly saddened upon learning of the tragic news of the earthquake that has left so many victims and great material destruction, offers his prayers to the Lord for the eternal rest of those who have died, and he requests you convey his sincere sympathy to the family members of the deceased, as well as his sentiments of spiritual paternal closeness to the numerous wounded and those who have lost their homes.
Likewise, he encourages institutions and persons of good will to provide the necessary help with charity and in a spirit of solidarity to those affected. With these sentiments, the Holy Father imparts his comforting Apostolic Blessing to those who have been affected and those who assist them, as a sign of his affection for the beloved Peruvian nation.
The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday's earthquake hit at 6:40 p.m. about 90 miles southeast of Lima at a depth of about 25 miles. Four strong aftershocks ranging from magnitudes of 5.4 to 5.9 were felt afterward.
Rescue workers struggled to reach the center of the destruction, the port city of Pisco about 125 miles southeast of the capital, Lima. Pisco's mayor said at least 200 people were buried in the rubble of a church where they had been attending a service.
"The dead are scattered by the dozens on the streets," Mayor Juan Mendoza told Lima radio station CPN.
"We don't have lights, water, communications. Most houses have fallen, churches, stores, hotels, everything is destroyed," he said, sobbing.