After the Earthquake: ACN to offer emergency aid and help rebuild


It is 11 am in San Gregorio de Portoviejo and 33 degrees. In the streets of the Ecuadorian city there is an odour of decomposition and burning. A few days before the earthquake, it had rained non-stop for 12 hours causing flooding and the region was hit by an intense mudslide; hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes.

People are begging desperately for water, food and blankets. Nobody is sleeping in their homes, even those whose houses are still standing. “We are afraid that it will happen again,” said a tearful Fr Walter Coronel, a Fidei Donum missionary of the Archdiocese of Portoviejo speaking to ACN. Father Walter , who is a native of this city, traveled  for several days before the earthquake because at present he works in the Ecuadorian Amazon. He relates what happened:

“It was two minutes before the start of the 7 o’clock Mass on Saturday as FrRoberto Carlos Garviami was introducing me to more than 100 worshipers who had come to the church of San José de Picoaza when the ground started to shake very strongly. Fr. Roberto Carlos stopped talking anda large piece of the ceiling landed a few centimeters from my feet. I embraced two people I did not even know, we prayed to God that it would stop soon.”

According to unofficial sources, nobody was killed in the church of San José de Picoaza, but many people lost their lives in the various buildings of the Archdiocese and the Cathedral of Porto Viejo. The earthquake, whose epicenter was located 150 kilometers from Porto Viejo, had an intensity of 7.9 points and destroyed many buildings which collapsed as though they were made of paper.

There are not many places left where you can celebrate the Holy Mass, declares an Ecuadorian priest. “In the few parish churches that have not been completely destroyed, the walls are full of cracks and they are in danger of collapsing. Every time we find a new victim, we have the funeral in the street, around the corner from the destroyed houses. “

The people are just beginning to find out what has happened to their houses. It is still difficult to count the number of fatalities, because there are rural areas in the hills that are completely buried by rocks and trees, which no one can access. “We know nothing about the rural population. Nobody has managed to reach them yet. We’re completely out of our depth.”

As time passes, the chance of finding of living people under the debris becomes smaller. “The situation is deteriorating rapidly “confirms Fr Walter. “The bodies are starting to rot, there is no water and electricity is constantly being cut off. Our country is not prepared for this “he said desperately.

The website of the archdiocese of Portoviejo has not been updated since the earthquake, which has proven to be providential. This is because the cover picture is a poster for the Year of Acceptance 2016, the motto of which is: “Acceptance is to find joy in taking in one’s brother.”The Ecuadorian people are sharing with their compatriots the little they have. ” People are making fires on the street and cooking for everyone, including those they do not know.”

Fr Walter calls on the international community to pray and give assistance in order to bring this desperate situation to an end. ACN, which already supports a number of projects in the country, has now promised additional projects to help those in need in various ways with emergency help and reconstruction aid.

 M.Z. de la Morena