Ecuador (MNN) – On Saturday April 16, a magnitude-7.8 earthquake shook the coast of Ecuador, sending the country into a state of emergency. It’s the strongest earthquake to hit Ecuador since 1979 and has been the deadliest since March 1987.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, in a report by CNN, it is too early to tell if the recent earthquakes, which hit Japan just barely days before the one hitting Ecuador, are related.
However, coastal areas in the west closest to the the epicenter have been hit the hardest, specifically the coastal Manabi Province, where most of the fatalities have been. The tourist destination, Pedernales, is among the cities with the most devastation, with reports that the whole town has been flattened.
The current number of those injured was last reported at 2,575 and the death toll has capped at around 280, but it is expected to rise as rescue teams continue to search for survivors and dig people out of the rubble.
“In Guayaquil, the largest city, an overpass collapsed on a car killing the driver,” Wayne Pederson says, with Reach Beyond.
For the past 85 years, Reach Beyond has been working in Ecuador, specifically in the capital city of Quito, to provide Christian healthcare and radio ministry. Pederson explains tremors were felt in the neighboring countries of Colombia and Peru. Major tremors were heard in Quito. Thankfully, little to no damage has been reported in Quito.
“All of our missionaries are safe and accounted for. Our radio station in Guayaquil, HCJB 2FM, has been able to operate through all of this time. HCJB AMFM, in Quito, had been broadcasting the emergency announcements on their frequencies, trying with the government radio stations to get information to the people,” Pederson explains. The stations have also been helping listeners locate loved ones as well.
For the time being, all mobile operators are also allowing customers free text messages in order to assist in finding loved ones in the Manabi and Esmeraldas provinces.
Currently 10,000 military personnel and 3,500 police officers have been deployed to the coast, assessing damage and checking out the hydro-electric dams and the oil pipelines which had been temporarily shutdown. They are also assisting in search and rescue operations as well as keeping public order. Airports in Guayaquil had been closed but are now again open.
“We haven’t been deployed yet because we’re waiting to hear from the government. Just what their plan is and how we can fit into that,” Pederson expresses. “We have personnel prepared to go out into the coastal areas and move in there with some of our emergency response crisis management teams.”
But it’s important for Reach Beyond to wait until the government gives the go-ahead. Otherwise, acting sooner than requested can cause confusion, and those who want to help may end up in the way. Furthermore, Reach Beyond has to wait for highways to reopen along with others methods of getting to the coast.
Yet, as it stands by, Reach Beyond’s hospital, community development, and emergency response teams are ready to move with food, blankets, and water as soon as they are asked to do so.
Fortunately, the earthquake will not be affecting Reach Beyond’s work, specifically with it’s recently announced new program, CHILI. “We’re still recruiting and getting people ready to come in. That program starts in September. So right now we’re in the recruitment and the preparation stage,” Pederson says.
Instead, Pederson believes the earthquake might make people more aware of the needs facing Ecuador.
“The CHILI program is really our attempt to recruit young people for cross-cultural ministry in Latin America and around the world. And certainly when something like this happens, it raises the awareness of the need in these countries for young people to come in and help with ministries of compassion, community development, and health care,” Pederson explains.
Participants of the program will enter a two-year program where the first 6 months are spent in training while the last 18 months are spent on the field. Individuals will primarily be working in the jungle, where Reach Beyond has a community development center to recruit, mentor, and train people to go out into communities of the unreached tribes.
It’s in these areas Reach Beyond brings clean water, latrines, and helps to build clinics. But that’s not all it brings with them. Reach Beyond also works to bring human aid and compassion to people in some of the most remote and poverty stricken areas of Ecuador. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ with global hands.
Reach Beyond asks for you to pray for the HCJB Media team as it tries to help those who have lost friends, family, and their homes. The ministry’s broadcast transmissions are reaching the areas of Ecuador most affected by the earthquake. Please also pray that Jesus Christ would be known through situation and for His love and mercy to show.
For more information about the CHILI program, click here!