Adventist Church Infrastructure
Severely Damaged in Major Chile Quake
No reports yet of members killed or injured, recovery just beginning
BY FELIPE LEMOS, HEARLY MAYR, and ANSEL OLIVER
n 8.8-magnitude earthquake, one of the most powerful in recorded history, shook the South American country of Chile early on the morning of February 27, taking hundreds of lives and damaging public and Seventh-day Adventist Church infrastructure around the quake's epicenter, some 200 miles south of the capital, Santiago.
The church's Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is coordinating with federal emergency officials to provide aid and a small crew is assisting with urban rescue efforts among collapsed buildings.
DAMAGE ASSESMENT: An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile in the early morning hours of Feb. 27, damaging infrastructure and collapsing numerous buildings near its epicenter, about 200 miles south of the capital city of Santiago. Above, neighbors assess damage over the weekend. [photo courtesy South American Division]
The Adventist radio station in Chile, La Radio Nuevo Tiempo, is announcing that fellowship halls at Adventist churches are available to the public in need of assistance, said Madigal Perez, executive secretary of the church's South American Division, based in Brasilia, Brazil.
“The campus of the Chile Adventist University received less damage and the Chilean national emergency organization has contacted ADRA Chile requesting blankets, water and mattresses to assist with casualties,” Perez added.
More than 700 people have died in the disaster, an estimated 500,000 homes have been destroyed and 1.5 million others have suffered damage, according to Chile's National Office of Emergencies and Information (ONEMI).
Several Adventist Church buildings were destroyed in the city of Talca, including the Central Chile Mission administration office, an ADRA warehouse and the Talca Central Adventist Church, officials for the South American Division reported. In the city of Constitución, part of the Maule region, many houses have been swept out to sea, including seven Adventist residences.
Church officials also reported structural damage to sanctuaries in Los Ángeles, a city in the Biobío region; the Chile Union Mission office, located in Santiago; the South Chile Conference office, located in Temuco; and Chile Adventist University in Chillán.
"The ground was moving like ocean waves," said Nancy Roa Vidal, a resident of Santiago. "[The earthquake] lasted approximately two minutes. We're in a state of catastrophe."
Residents near the epicenter remain jittery as aftershocks continue. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has recorded more than 105 aftershocks stronger than 5.0-magnitude since the quake struck Saturday at 3:34 a.m. local time.
"People are out of their homes, and many are thinking of sleeping outside for fear of the aftershocks," said Jorge Alé, country director for ADRA in Chile.
ADRA dispatched a truckload of water, which left Saturday afternoon from Santiago to the cities of Talca and Concepción. Mattresses, blankets, and other basic necessities are also being procured for distribution.
PRAYERS REQUESTED: Pastor Erton Köhler, South American Division Adventist Church president, said ““We are working unceasingly and calling for everyone to pray for the Adventists and the population in general in Chile who is suffering right now in this tragedy.” [AR file photo by Mark A. Kellner]
ADRA's urban rescue team is also coordinating aid to the city of Villa Alemana, near Valparaiso.
ADRA International and ADRA of South America have pledged an initial $105,000 to help in relief efforts Chile.
ADRA is accepting donations for the Chile Earthquake Response Fund at its Web site, adra.org, by phone at 1-800-424-ADRA, or via mobile phone in the U.S. -- text "CHILE" followed by a space and the donation amount to the number 27138.
Chile is no stranger to earthquakes. According to the USGS, Chile endured in 1960 a 9.5-magnitude quake, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded.
The long, narrow nation lies near a fault line between the Nazca tectonic plate in the Pacific Ocean and the South American plate. While building codes in the past few decades were designed to withstand earthquake damage, Saturday's quake was nearly unprecedented.
Adventist leaders emphasized the need for practical help and Christian concern: “We are working unceasingly and calling for everyone to pray for the Adventists and the population in general in Chile who is suffering right now in this tragedy,” stated Pastor Erton Köhler, South American Division president.
There are approximately 120,000 Adventist Church members in Chile, worshiping in about 600 churches and 260 organized groups.
Lemos writes for the South American Division, Mayr for ADRA International and Oliver for Adventist News Network