Baltimore agencies join Salvador quake relief efforts

Religious organizations supply money, workers

January 15, 2001|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Two Baltimore-based international relief organizations are sending money and workers to help with recovery efforts in the earthquake that shook Central America on Saturday.

Kenneth F. Hackett, executive director of Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services, said the organization's 20 staff members in San Salvador - four of them American - were reportedly unharmed and have been working with the Red Cross and Green Cross at rescue efforts in the Las Colinas neighborhood west of San Salvador, El Salvador's capital, where a landslide buried scores of houses.

The temblor struck at about 11:35 a.m. off the Salvadoran coast about 65 miles southwest of San Miguel, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, and caused damage and deaths as far away as Guatemala and Honduras.

CRS, the overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic Church, sent $50,000 to its local office to help with the rescue work. In addition to its local team, the international relief organization has sent two engineers from its Guatemala office to help residents deal with buildings destroyed and weakened by the quake.

"Right now, it's assessment and immediate assistance," Hackett said. "There won't be any rebuilding for about a week or so. They're just trying to assist those parties who are trying to recover and find people, get the injured some proper care and take care of those people who have been traumatized."

Lutheran World Relief, the international relief arm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, plans to send $20,000 today to several churches in El Salvador with which it has worked for 20 years, President Kathryn Wolford said. But she said the organization - which moved from New York to Baltimore in 1999 - likely will be involved for the next year in rebuilding efforts, after more is known about how much damage the quake wrought.

"It's a little hard to tell what that will look like right now," Wolford said. "One of the blessings in the tragedy is there are a lot of local people in the region who have had a lot of experience with earthquake response, so as much as possible we'll try to draw on people within the region."

At St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Columbia, which has a sister parish in El Salvador, Barbara Hope, the church's associate for social ministry, was planning a collection for next week to help with recovery.

"I'm just so horrified," Hope said. "People there have been through so much, and then to have this happen to them, my heart just goes out to them."

Wolford stressed that for people in Maryland who want to help, the most effective gift is cash, which can be funneled to organizations in the area to purchase what is most needed. When Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America two years ago, for example, a flood of donations of unusable old clothes and other items hampered relief workers, who had to find time and space to store them.

Donations to the Catholic Relief Services' efforts may be made online at www.catholicrelief.org, or mailed to Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore 21203-7090.

Donations to the Lutheran organization may be sent to Lutheran World Relief, P.O. Box 17061, Baltimore 21298, or online at www.lwr.org.

Donations to either group should be designated "Central American Earthquake."

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