Salvation Army Response to Earthquake in Chile

(International Headquarters, London, England) Following a devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile during the early hours of Saturday morning (27 February), affecting around two million people, Salvation Army emergency services were immediately mobilized to provide support and comfort.

International financial assistance is already on the way from The Salvation Army international headquarters in London.

The earthquake epicenter was approximately 90 miles (150 kilometers) north west of the city of Concepción in Southern Chile which is approximately 350 miles (approximately 600 kilometers) from the capital of Santiago, ‘nevertheless, the quake was of a 7.0 magnitude in the Santiago metropolitan region’, says the Chief Secretary of The Salvation Army South America West Territory, Lt. Colonel F. Bradford Bailey.

The area most affected by the earthquake was between the cities Os Temuco and Chillan, with Concepcion hardest hit, reports the South America West Territory Secretary for Business Administration Lt. Colonel Maria Alarcon.  She adds, ‘I have never seen such destruction here before, though I have worked in many disaster situations – they don’t compare with this’. The Lt. Colonel says the immediate need is still food, water and medicine.

Lt. Colonel Alarcon also reports that tents to house 60 displaced families have been set up on the patio of the Hualpencillo Corps near Concepcion and that Salvation Army officers are traveling from Puerto Montt and Osorno, in Southern Chile, to Concepcion to join The Salvation Army emergency relief response team.

‘Our officers are all fine, but a lot of Salvation Army properties are damaged especially the older ones made of adobe bricks. The worst damage in Santiago has occurred at Quinta Normal and Lo Vial Corps, and El Faro Men’s Residence,’ adds the Lt. Colonel Alarcon.

Territorial Commander for the South American West Territory, Commissioner Jorge A. Ferreira (currently in Ecuador) reports that The Salvation Army is also carrying out emergency relief work in the city of Os Valparaiso on the west coast of Chile. The Commissioner adds that it had been planned to dedicate a recently arrived mobile Salvation Army emergency services canteen (a donation from USA Southern Territory) on 4 March, ‘however, this is now already being used to serve those in need’.

In the early hours following the earthquake Lt. Colonel Bailey said that the immediate Salvation Army response included providing food, water, first aid kits, emergency packets, blankets, candles and other urgently required supplies.

He added that people had flocked to the streets ‘as numerous aftershocks continue to pummel’ the country, severely affecting older buildings in the more historical areas of the larger cities.

Water, gas and electricity were immediately cut off in areas affected by the earthquake and will stay disconnected until relevant emergency crews can assess the damage and prioritize immediate needs.

Lt. Colonel Bailey said that it has been extremely difficult to communicate with Salvation Army centers throughout the country as all phone lines (mobile and land) have been disrupted. ‘Some computer based communication, especially Skype, has been providing an alternative way for those in other countries to communicate with people in Chile.’

The emergency services coordinator for The Salvation Army International Headquarters (IHQ) in London, Lt. Colonel Mike Caffull, reports that IHQ has already agreed to provide financial assistance for the Chilean Salvationists relief response. He says assistance coordinated by the IHQ emergency team will also be provided regarding ongoing relief in the medium and long term.

Please pray for the people of Chile.

To donate, please call 1-800-SAL-ARMY, text the word “chile” to 52000 to make a one-time $10 donation billed to your cell phone account, or go to www.salvationarmyusa.org

Report submitted by Major Laurie Robertson, International Editor in Chief & Literacy Secretary.

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