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February 27, 2010

ELCA initiates response to massive earthquake in Chile


A massive earthquake, with a magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter scale, struck central Chile in the early morning hours Feb. 27, killing at least 122 people. The earthquake is the biggest to hit Chile in 50 years.

As a result of the earthquake, a tsunami warning was issued Feb. 27 for the entire Pacific basin, including all of the Hawaiian islands.

Staff of the churchwide organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has contacted companions in Chile. They are working to assess the situation and plan a response, said Megan Bradfield, associate director, International Development and Disaster Response, ELCA Global Mission.

ELCA churchwide staff has also connected with people in Peru, where the church is supporting those who are being evacuated due to the tsunami warning, said Daniel Rift, director of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal in a blog entry.

ELCA International Disaster Response will be working with two historical companions in Chile, Bradfield said. They are the Iglesia Evangelica Luterana en Chile (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile), a member of the Lutheran World Federation, and Educacion Popular en Salud (Popular Education in Health Foundation), Bradfield said.

The church has approximately 3,000 members served by nine pastors in 10 congregations and 5 points of mission — two in Santiago, two in Concepción and one in Coquimbo, she said. The health foundation works to promote quality and fairness in health care for the poor, and works to establish and train community health groups, Bradfield said. Over the past 20 years, it "has grown from a small, emergency-response team to a leader of systematic community mobilizations to improve health services and awareness," she said.

Chile is vulnerable to earthquakes. It is situated on the Pacific "Rim of Fire," on the edge of the Pacific and South American tectonic plates.

Chile suffered the biggest earthquake of the 20th century when a 9.5 magnitude quake struck the city of Valdivia in 1960, killing 1,655 people.

Financial contributions to support earthquake relief efforts in Chile can be made at the ELCA Web site.

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