Earthquake Brings Death, Injury to Members in San Salvador
December 1986

“Earthquake Brings Death, Injury to Members in San Salvador,” Ensign, Dec. 1986, 71

Earthquake Brings Death, Injury to Members in San Salvador

The earthquake that struck San Salvador, El Salvador, October 10 took the lives of two members and seriously injured five others. In addition, the homes of 245 member families were severely damaged or destroyed.

That news came from Elder Gene R. Cook of the First Quorum of the Seventy and President of the Mexico-Central America Area, who reported the information to the First Presidency after visiting the afflicted area.

He said there were no injuries or deaths among the missionaries serving there, all of whom are Latin Americans. He also noted that some one hundred Church members received minor injuries from the quake, which measured 5.4 on the Richter scale.

Elder Cook arrived in San Salvador October 12 and met with the presidents of the three stakes in the city. By then, relief efforts, under the direction of Carlos Amado, regional representative, and Lynn Justice, director of temporal affairs, were under way. More than six hundred people were being housed in Church meetinghouses, and fourteen hundred people were being fed from food supplied by surrounding stakes and by Guatemala City.

By October 13, the Church had sent three planeloads of food, medicine, and other supplies to San Salvador. The Bishop’s Central Storehouse provided 150 tents to serve as temporary shelters for the homeless.

No food crisis was expected, because stores in the area were well supplied. One LDS chapel in the quake area retained its water supply and was providing safe water for many victims.

On October 15, El Salvador President Jose Napoleon Duarte estimated the national death toll at nearly twelve hundred. The adobe-type construction of the homes in San Salvador contributed to the heavy destruction.

Sixteen-year-old Neidyn Janette Martinez of the Santa Anita Ward, San Salvador Stake, was pinned under the wall of her house after the home was destroyed by the earthquake.

The young girl had to remain in the rubble for two days before rescuers could get to her. Her bishop, Jose Emilio Montepeque, tried desperately to comfort her and lift her spirits as she lay pinned under the wreckage. “You would do anything to get out of your part in the Young Women Worldwide Celebration Program (held the very next day), wouldn’t you?” Bishop Montepeque teased.

“No way,” she responded. “I know my part by heart.”

When the bishop asked her to recite her part for him, she repeated it several times without hesitation.

Family members were finally able to get enough help to pull her from under the wall. She was taken to the San Rafael Clinic, where Elder Cook and Mission President Manuel Diaz gave her a blessing.

She was paralyzed from the chin down and was told she would live for only twenty-four hours without an operation. Since the only neurosurgeon available in the area was at the military hospital, Sister Martinez was packed with sandbags and moved to the hospital.

Just before the doctors began to operate, the girl said to them, “Before you touch me, kneel down and pray first.”

The doctors and all the other people in the operating room knelt and prayed. The operation was finished at 9:00 A.M., and Sister Martinez is making an excellent recovery.