El Salvador Struggles to Put Itself Back Together After Quake

20,000 Homeless, Villages Isolated and More Than 100 Churches Damaged

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, JAN. 17, 2001 (Zenit.org).-
Aftershocks continue to rattle El Salvador, already struggling after last weekend´s devastating earthquake.

Half of El Salvador´s population of 6 million inhabitants are without water, 20,000 are homeless, and a number of villages are still isolated. Among them is Comasagua, 28 kilometers (17 miles) southeast of San Salvador, where hundreds of peasants await rescue, after part of a hill collapsed and buried the village.

The aftershocks have kept offices, businesses and schools closed in the hardest-hit areas.

More than 100 churches have been damaged, as well as Catholic schools, including the one directed by the Salesians in the Don Bosco of St. Tecla Polygon. The Salesians reported that some of the material damage is grave.

Meanwhile, the National Commission of Solidarity is appealing for tarpaulins and tents, water and drinks, blankets, lamps, nonperishable foods, batteries, first aid kits, portable toilettes, serum, surgical materials, equipment for orthopedic treatment, and antibiotics.

Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador is personally presiding over the commission organized by the Church for the emergency. Pope John Paul II himself has made two appeals for assistance to survivors and reconstruction.

In addition, Catholic Relief Services has committed a total of $250,00 toward earthquake relief. «Three teams from Catholic Relief Services spent all day Sunday traveling through the departments of La Union, San Miguel and Usulutan,» CRS aide Gino Lofredo said. «We have met with local partners to assess the highest priority needs.»

CRS has sent plastic sheeting, potable water, blankets and basic food supplies, as well as funds, to the dioceses of Santiago de Maria, Zacatecoluca, San Vicente and Sonsonate. Funds have also been sent to the bishops´ conference and to diocese of Santa Ana. Relief materials were also sent to the Archdiocese of El Salvador.

«This has been a regional response for Catholic Relief Services,» Lofredo explained. «Agency staff from Honduras and Guatemala have come to assist us. In addition, the local Church and Caritas partners are tremendous.» Both Caritas-El Salvador as well as the various Caritas of sister churches, have mobilized to coordinate the Church´s aid.

Days after the earthquake shook Guatemala and El Salvador, close to 600 people are confirmed dead, while thousands are reported missing. The epicenter of the quake was in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of El Salvador. Buildings shook as far north as Mexico City, 600 miles away.

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