CONCEPCION, Chile, MARCH 1, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Caritas is mobilizing its staff to bring aid to the two million Chileans affected by the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near Concepcion on Saturday.
The death toll is over 700 people at present, but some 500,000 have been displaced and hundreds of thousands more have been affected.
The president of the Chilean bishops’ conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, affirmed that the parishes and local Caritas centers are already working to provide emergency aid.
Lorenzo Figueroa, director of Caritas Chile, stated that his aid workers are “working in coordination with governmental and civil society organizations in establishing a national help network in spite of enormous communications difficulties.”
He continued: “We are collecting food to be sent immediately to communities which have been most affected by the earthquake and where shortages are already being reported.
“Our own communications network and capacity to offer warehouses and points of collection and distribution are immediately available.”
“The magnitude and depth of the catastrophe which has affected the poorest regions of the country will require the support of Caritas members in Latin America and worldwide,” Figueroa affirmed. “Above all, hope is needed among our suffering people.”
The agency reported that it sent an emergency response and search and rescue teams to Santiago today. It includes international and Latin American Caritas workers.
Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, stated, “Caritas Chile and the bishops are keeping us updated on the needs of the people.”
He continued: “Chile has faced a terrible catastrophe. The Caritas confederation will be there in support of the survivors in this initial phase of emergency response and as they look to rebuild the country.”
Meanwhile, Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Concepcion spoke out against the looting that is currently taking place, in which people are stealing not only food, but electronic equipment and other non-emergency items.
He stated that these looters are causing a “second earthquake.”
Over a hundred aftershocks have already followed the initial quake, eight of them measuring over 6.0 on the Richter scale.
Saturday’s earthquake was 500 times more forceful than the Jan. 12 quake in Haiti.