Aftershocks rattle quake survivors in Guatemala

By November 9, 2012

Guatemala (MNN) — At least 48 are dead and dozens are missing in Guatemala, as aftershocks forced quake survivors–afraid to go back into their homes–into the streets overnight.

In the hardest-hit area of San Marcos, rescue crews worked through the night searching for survivors. The magnitude 7.4 quake struck Wednesday near Guatemala's border with Mexico. In the more stricken areas, soldiers were deployed and supplies trucked in. Damages were reported in all but one of Guatemala's 22 states. The earthquake also rattled nerves in neighboring Mexico and El Salvador, sparking a tsunami alert on the Salvadoran coast.

Guatemala's president estimates that roughly 16,000 people were affected. While the official report was that several towns lacked drinking water or electricity, the actual scope of the impact won't be known for days.

Paradise Bound Ministries Executive Director Dan Smith says "There are so many villages that are cut off and remote in those areas, that there's not going to be any information coming in from those areas at all. They're probably harder hit than the well-built structures that are within in the city or a populated area."

In addition, since the quake struck near the volcano that erupted in September, many of the affected villages will be the same. Smith explains, "They're just recovering from that; they came through that pretty well, but they're still on orange alert within the country for more volcanic activity. And when we're having earthquakes, you know, it's all interconnected."

The most remote of the villages have been cut off. Communications are down in some areas. Yet, Smith says that of the hundreds of villages where Paradise Bound works, most of them made it through the disaster safely, although buildings and homes are damaged.

For those villages who have fallen through the cracks, Smith says they're bringing their resources to bear. "We are beginning to mobilize specifically to get to that San Marcos area, to head that way ourselves. But also to be able to support some of the other ministries already working in the area because, obviously, they're going to be overwhelmed with requests here in these next few days."

As it happens, Thursday was the kick off to quarterly lay pastor conferences that are held at the mission base. "We have about 30 lay pastors. Half of them have family connections in that San Marcos area. So, even as we go out to the villages and we're transporting these lay pastors into our facility for that four-day conference, we're going to have the opportunity to immediately talk through their connections in various villages in that San Marcos region and what it is we can do to be able to help them." Those meetings will give a clearer picture of what needs to happen and how soon. "That whole region of the country is in a lot of need right now for prayer, but also just need even financially for ministries such as ours to be able to go in and do what we can on the humanitarian level but then also utilize this to be able to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Questions will be forming even as victims wait for the next tremor and wonder what's next. "Prayer right now is the biggest need that we have," says Smith. "There are people who are just uncertain about where life is right now because people are missing, or their homes have been completely destroyed."

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