Canterbury, New Zealand – The Salvation Army’s earthquake response program in Canterbury, New Zealand, is under way. Salvation Army officers (ministers) and volunteers are feeding and caring for Canterbury residents displaced by the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit the region around Christchurch on Tuesday 22 February. With large loss of life reported and many people still missing, sorrow continues to engulf the South Pacific nation.
Salvation Army teams from its three North Island divisions, along with teams from the South Island corps (churches) of Mosgiel and Queenstown, comprising 50 people, are on the way to Christchurch. Other teams across South Island are on standby.
Last night, the first since the earthquake struck, Salvation Army volunteers served 1,500 meals to those unable to go back to their homes and staff provided support at emergency welfare centers.
Damage to The Salvation Army’s Southern Divisional Headquarters, as well as to Christchurch City Community Ministries Centre and Christchurch City Corps, means a temporary operations center to oversee recovery work has been set up at Sydenham Corps. Southern Division and territorial headquarters (THQ) staff are now assessing the situation across the affected area to determine the exact nature of the Army’s response. With mobile communications in the region patchy at present, communications equipment including radios, satellite phones and computers is being transported from THQ to Sydenham.
Linwood Corps and Community Ministries, which has shouldered a large part of The Salvation Army’s recovery work since the larger but less deadly September 2010 earthquake, suffered mainly superficial damage. Its officers, staff and volunteers are preparing for a steep increase in demand. Christchurch City Community Ministries Centre will not reopen in the immediate future due to quake damage and its staff are being redeployed to Linwood.
Major Campbell Roberts, who is coordinating The Salvation Army’s emergency response, says the quake is a tragedy beyond description but that the Army’s experience since September and the high morale of officers and volunteers puts it in good stead to respond effectively.
Salvation Army teams are at Wellington and Auckland airports to meet hundreds of people who have been evacuated from the quake zone and offer support and light refreshments.
The Salvation Army re-launched its Canterbury Earthquake Appeal yesterday. There has been a strong response from the public and from potential corporate donors. The Salvation Army’s USA Western Territory is donating US$200,000 to assist with the Army’s earthquake recovery efforts. The Australia Southern Territory is donating Aus$50,000.
Large and small-scale fundraising is being organized around New Zealand. An international track meet scheduled for Christchurch this weekend was cancelled after the quake. Athletes now plan to stage a fundraising meet in Wellington to support The Salvation Army’s earthquake appeal.
The Salvation Army’s international leader, General Shaw Clifton, was New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territorial Commander from 2002 to 2004. He informed current territorial commander Commissioner Don Bell that the prayers of International Headquarters were with the victims of the earthquake. ‘We are shocked, unhappy and downcast to hear overnight of a further quake in lovely Christchurch,’ he said. ‘We stand with you and your people in what you will do to offer relief.’
Commissioner Bell will soon visit the earthquake zone to encourage Salvation Army personnel.
Donations to the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal can be made online by clicking here.