South America

Powerful earthquake in Ecuador kills 413, injures more than 2,500

Church members, humanitarians gather donations to assist those affected by the tragedy.

Pedernales, Ecuador | Andrew McChesney, news editor, Adventist Review/ ADRA International Staff/ ANN Staff

The South American country of Ecuador has declared a state of emergency after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck at 6:58 p.m. Saturday, killing at least 413 people and injuring more than 2,500. The earthquake caused widespread destruction in the country, including four local Adventist Churches.  

Pedernales, a city of about 46,000 people located 165 miles (270 kilometers) west of the capital, Quito, was flattened by the earthquake, its mayor said.

The 600 local church members set up donation centers to collect food and clothing for those affected by the earthquake. Church members were working closely with the ADRA, said Felipe Lemos, director of the press office for the Adventist Church’s South American Division, whose territory includes Ecuador.

“Adventist members in Pedernales are establishing centers to collect food and clothing in every district for distribution to places in need,” Lemos said. “Let’s remember the people of Ecuador in prayer.”

Adventist humanitarians respond

On Monday the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) distributed food to 239 people in temporary camps and 87 people in shelters. ADRA volunteers were even able to assist a woman who gave birth in the street, as well as assisting her wounded relatives.

All of these activities were carried out in coordination with Ecuador’s MIES (Ministry of Economic and Social inclusion).

ADRA volunteers in the area of Pedernales and 30 volunteers from Santo Domingo and Quito, are working on an initial rapid needs assessment in order to better understand the situation on the ground and continue to provide the most relevant humanitarian aid.

ADRA is also working to set up a water purification unit in Pedernales to better serve the affected population with the supply of drinking water.

Additional emergency response team members from the global ADRA network are travelling to support the team in Ecuador.

Damaged churches in Pedernales

Church members were meeting in one of the churches, the Palmitas Seventh-day Adventist Church in the coastal city of Pedernales, when the earthquake rocked the region, said Giovanny Izquierdo, president of Adventist Church in Ecuador.

“Church members were in the church at the exact moment when the earthquake occurred and they immediately fled outside,” Izquierdo said in a WhatsApp text message.

The church building collapsed shortly afterward. The church has 80 members.

“Many buildings have fallen and the Palmitas church is completely destroyed,” the church’s pastor, Washington Guaranga, said in a separate WhatsApp message.

The WhatsApp messages were sent to Samuel Saito, director of the Adventist Church-operated Nuevo Tiempo (Hope Channel) radio network in Ecuador, and viewed by the Adventist Review.

 “We haven’t experience the loss of any church members in the middle of this tragedy, only material damages,” Izquierdo said earlier on Twitter. “Thank you for praying for us.”

Two of the other three churches destroyed in the earthquake were the Central Adventist Church, also in Pedernales, and the church in the town of Maria Luiza.

Prayers for Ecuador, Japan and Myanmar

Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, also called for prayers for the relief and assistance efforts of the people of Ecuador.

“Remember the Ecuador Union and our local fields as they help with the recovery process during the aftermath of the traumatic and deadly event,” he said on his Facebook page.

Wilson also asked church members to pray for the people of Japan and Myanmar, two countries that also suffered earthquakes recently.

“Please also keep the people of Japan and Myanmar in your prayers as they have suffered earthquakes with tragic loss of life,” Wilson said. “As we come to the end of time, Jesus wants to use us as a positive influence in all types of difficult situations so Christ’s love can be seen through us.”