Peru quake update – “A view from the field”
Salvation Army continues relief work
by Cedric Hills, Major –
Major Cedric Hills, international emergency services coordinator, visited the earthquake-hit areas of Peru, to assess how The Salvation Army should proceed with its relief program. Here is his “view from the field.”
Two weeks after the earthquake I traveled to Pisco to see how the relief effort is progressing and how families are coming to terms with such a devastating, life-changing event.
Since I’d seen the activity in the town itself during an earlier visit, I decided to investigate how the outlying areas were faring. Accompanied by Major Alex Nesterenko, divisional commander and leader of The Salvation Army work in Peru, I headed to the town of Ica to assess the surrounding small villages.
Arriving in El Olivo I couldn’t miss the focal point—the Roman Catholic church. Where once it stood proudly in the middle of the village, its dangerously cracked tower is about all that remains. As I spoke to the people of the village, many of the 365 residents, rather than drawing attention to the rubble that once comprised their homes, pointed at the tower and said: “Have you seen what it did to our church?” The remains of the tower, like the rest of this community, will need to be pulled down and the site cleared before rebuilding can start.
Captain Carlos Aguilar, the Salvation Army team leader for Ica, showed me around. He and his team have distributed food parcels, blankets and clothes. The destruction is plain to see—in fact it is the single house still standing which draws our attention amidst the total destruction. Even this lone house suffered structural damage, which means it will also need to be torn down.
While I was looking at this once lovely home, Luvi came out to speak with me. She was born in this home—her family home—40 years ago. As we talked, her 11-year-old daughter Annelle came and stood by her side.
When the earthquake happened Annelle and her mother were standing at the bottom of the stairs. Annelle ran for the door and escaped the building. By the time Luvi got to the door the house had started to buckle and crack. The twisting of the brickwork meant the door would not open and Luvi couldn’t escape. Fortunately, as her home didn’t collapse, she survived.
Walking down the main street, I saw an elderly man named Clemente pushing a wheelbarrow of rubble. He was trying to clear away the remains of his home where he had lived for 55 years. His eight-member family has now taken refuge on waste land, living under donated shelter materials.
Patricia, the village leader, was collecting water from a standpipe. She told me that since the village is very warm, tents are not appropriate because they are too hot to live in. Some organizations have given matting to create temporary shelters, but they need more—and least five sheets per family. With the increased demand for materials, many prices have risen, and the price of matting has more than doubled.
We visited a communal kitchen where a small group of women was cooking for 13 families (38 people). There I met Juana and her small daughter. They showed me where their home once stood—the place where Juana’s mother died in the quake just two weeks earlier.
The busyness of the people was clear. Women in communal kitchens prepared food for their families and neighbors. Men worked side by side to move rubble with shovels and bare hands. Village leader Patricia explained that the clean up and removal of rubble was the biggest problem facing her community. Their lack of outside help contrasted starkly with the multitude of helpers in the municipal center at Pisco. I was deeply touched by the positive outlook of those I met in this small village.
People like Luvi, Annelle, Clemente, Patricia and Juana are typical of the many families impacted by this catastrophic event. The Salvation Army is playing its part to deal with their short-term and longer-term needs. Basic food supplies and other essential relief materials are being distributed to sustain the people. The Army is working with local leaders and other organizations to plan the best way to support the reconstruction efforts. There’s much to do, but The Salvation Army will continue to support these people as they rebuild their homes and their lives.
From an International News Release