UMCOR Sends Aid to Chile
March 1, 2010—The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has sent an initial emergency grant to its relief partners in Chile to help them respond to the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the South American country last weekend.
The grant, in the amount of $10,000, will help the Methodist Church of Chile (IMECH) and its relief arm, the Methodist Humanitarian Action Team (EMAH), conduct needs assessments and bring food and clean water to survivors.
“At this time, the situation continues to be extremely urgent,” said Juan Salazar, president of Methodist Social Ministry, also of IMECH. “The need for food and water is provoking desperation in the people beyond the looting and disorder shown on TV.”
So far, the disaster, which struck in the early hours of Saturday morning, has taken more than 700 lives and wiped out more than half a million homes.
A Coordinated Response
EMAH is coordinating its response with the Chilean government’s emergency response agency, ONEMI, and with local ecumenical and nongovernmental partners. It has integrated a needs-assessment team that will conduct field visits tomorrow to some of the hardest hit areas around the city of Concepción, 320 miles south of the capital, Santiago.
This first team will be led by bishops Mario Martínez, of the Methodist Church of Chile, and Gloria Rojas, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chile.
In addition, Salazar said in an email to UMCOR, “Regional emergency teams are being created to plan, coordinate, monitor and evaluate distributions of food and other supplies and carry out further needs assessments.”
And, he warned, “Reports increasingly indicate that the effects [of the disaster] are greater than originally assessed.”
Fifth Strongest Quake on Record
The earthquake that struck Chile Saturday, with its ensuing, devastating tsunamis, was the strongest to hit the region in 50 years and the fifth strongest on record.
The government of Chile has readjusted its initial estimates of deaths and damages. It has put the official death toll at 723 and the number of homes destroyed or damaged at more than 500,000. As rescue teams search through the rubble, the number of casualties is expected to rise.
President Michelle Bachelet has decreed a 30-day state of emergency in the central Maule and Biobio regions, the hardest hit, including a 9:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew.
UMCOR Disaster Response Training
Last October, UMCOR dispatched an international disaster response team to Chile to help the Methodist Church there prepare for natural and human-made catastrophes.
UMCOR executives Melissa Crutchfield and Tom Hazelwood conducted a three-day preparedness and emergency response training for some 20 IMECH district coordinators that promoted networking opportunities with local authorities and relevant partners in the emergency response field.
A Call for Prayers and Solidarity
Crutchfield and Hazelwood responded to Salazar’s email message, promising that “We will continue to keep in touch and to keep you in our prayers. UMCOR and the people of the United Methodist Church stand with you and will help in any way we can.”
Bishop Joel Martínez, interim general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, launched a call for solidarity.
“I call on our generous United Methodist constituents to join in the response to the Chile Emergency Advance to strengthen UMCOR’s ability to be fully present with resources,” he said.