BALTIMORE, MD -- Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is preparing to assist its local partners in Ecuador in response to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country’s coastal region Saturday. At least 233 people were killed – a number that is expected to rise as first responders are reaching affected areas - hundreds more have been injured and there are reports of widespread damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure. To help provide funding for CRS, click here to donate.
CRS anticipates that water, food and emergency shelter will be the biggest needs in the coming days. “Some of the poorest provinces are located near the coast and we expect thousands of people to need immediate help,” said Tom Hollywood, CRS’ Representative for South America.
Esmeraldas and Manabí, two of the hardest hit areas, have received substantial rainfall recently, making them prone to potential landslides which is complicating access. “Roads going out to the coast are typically not very good and with potential landslide, getting to the affected areas will be a challenge. Areas that are already poor and have been hammered by El Nino rains now have to deal with the aftermath of a major earthquake,” Hollywood said.
Communications are down or intermittent, further complicating the logistics of assessing the damage and where the biggest needs are. “It has been really difficult to get in touch with our local partners,” said Hollywood. “Last night, even here in Quito the whole network collapsed.” The quake’s epicenter was 16 miles southeast of the coastal town of Muisne, and tremors could be felt as far away as Quito, the country’s capital 100 miles to the south.
Given the range of impact on a relatively large geographical swath of the country, CRS is coordinating with several actors and partners to determine which areas need to be assessed first.
This is the strongest earthquake Ecuador has experienced since an earthquake 1979 that triggered tsunamis and killed up to 600 people.
CRS has worked in Ecuador since the 1960s. Over the past five years, CRS has greatly invested in training Caritas diocesan members on risk mapping, contingency planning, first responders, and other measures in areas prone to flooding, seismic activity, and extreme weather.
CRS also has ongoing programming in the affected areas with the Scalabrini Mission Sisters that provides critical humanitarian, psychological, social and legal aid to Colombian refugees.