“Church Aids Quake Victims in El Salvador, India,” Ensign, Apr. 2001, 75
Church Aids Quake Victims in El Salvador, India
After two major earthquakes struck El Salvador in January and February and another hit India in January, the Church sent humanitarian aid to both countries, joining international efforts to help the hundreds of thousands of people who lost homes and loved ones.
In El Salvador, 15 Latter-day Saints died when a quake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale struck off the Pacific coast of this Central American nation. Just four weeks later, a second quake of 6.6 magnitude had its epicenter on land, near the nation’s capital. Church humanitarian aid, including 500,000 pounds of food, 3,200 tents, 25,000 blankets, 34,000 hygiene kits, 7,000 school kits, 30,000 pounds of first-aid supplies, tools, and wheelbarrows, was sent to the area.
Hundreds of member homes were completely destroyed or badly damaged. Church assistance included providing building materials as members helped each other repair and rebuild homes.
Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy, President of the Central America Area, reported that all missionaries in the area were safe. Missionaries were allowed through police barricades shortly after both quakes to help dig in the rubble for survivors and to help recover items from partially buried homes.
Local priesthood leaders assisted members in need by using fast-offering funds and offering temporary shelter in chapels to those who lost their homes. None of the 86 Church-owned meetinghouses in the area sustained structural damage, but some rented meetinghouses were destroyed.
Coincidentally, the Church Humanitarian Department had sent an airplane loaded with goods to El Salvador three days before the first quake struck, and a filming crew from the Church Welfare Department was en route to Central America when the disaster occurred. The crew was soon on the scene to document how the Church responds to disaster situations.
“Someday I hope the members can look back on this trial as a time of personal growth and learning, a time to reach out to the needy in loving service, and a time when they learned how the Church welfare program works,” said Elder Robbins.
In northwestern India, tens of thousands lost their lives or were injured when a 7.9-level quake struck.
No members, missionaries, or Church property were directly affected.
The Church sent more than 600,000 pounds of food, blankets, clothing, and medical supplies to the areas most impacted by the disaster. Emergency supplies were distributed by charitable organizations. The Church also sent funds to help with search and rescue operations, temporary shelters, and purchase of refugee camp supplies by local relief agencies.