April 16th 2016 18:58:37 ECT. Ecuador trembles.
“People were running with food or blankets to give to those standing shattered and terrified outside the ashes of their homes”. Fr. Raul Gonzalez, Manta, Ecuador
This is not an isolated episode. People still vividly remember the earthquake that occurred in August 2010, only the most recent among the many seismic events the country has been suffering over the years.
This earthquake was different though. Measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, it was the largest earthquake in the past 35 years. At least 676 people were killed and 16,600 people injured. The earthquake struck the coast approximately 27 km south-southeast of Muisne, in the province of Esmeraldas, at a depth of 20.6 km. Tremors were felt in neighbouring Colombia and Peru.
The hardest-hit area was the coastal Province of Manabí. There, in the town of Manta, the Society of the Divine Saviour has been running the parish Corpus Christi since the year 2012. In Manta local media reported over 160 deaths with thousands injured.
Urbirríos, the urban area where the Salvatorians are located has limited medical and sanitation facilities, irregular access to drinking water and basic school and domestic dwellings. The population is generally employed in the informal trade or fishing industries. Children often drop out of school to work, in order to contribute to the household’s income. The youth are at high risk of falling into drug addiction and often become prey to local gangs.
During the years, the Salvatorians have been providing nutrition, medical care, informal education and recreation to children and adolescents in the area. It is in this context that the disaster occurred. Natural disasters such as earthquakes always worse affect the most vulnerable, and as much as resilience in people is high, the human and material losses are inestimable and the recovery is hard and slow.
The Salvatorians immediately started to provide support to the homeless and traumatised. Out of the parish population, the Fathers identified a total of 120 families who were most in need of immediate help. Misean Cara, among others, provided emergency funding for the distribution of first need items such as water, food and materials for temporary shelter including tents and mattresses.
Special report by Daniela Coppola, Society of the Divine Saviour.