By Mark Kelly
NASHVILLE (BP) — Powerful earthquakes struck both Ecuador and Japan over the weekend, killing hundreds of people in the two countries and kick-starting local disaster response teams.
In Japan, a three-day series of earthquakes and aftershocks rocked the southern part of the country. The tremors killed at least 42 people, collapsed buildings and caused fires and landslides, news agencies reported. The Ecuador quake caused tremendous devastation on the country's Pacific coastline. The death toll there has risen to 350 and is expected to climb higher as rescue workers dig through rubble and reach isolated areas.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador on April 16 was the worst in decades, officials there told reporters. The tremor ripped apart buildings, tore up roads and knocked out power in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales.
Baptist Global Response released a statement that said the initial stages of the disaster response in Ecuador "will be search and rescue, performed mostly by in-country teams." BGR's area director is working with national partners to assess the situation and determine whether volunteer teams might be needed. If so, the first line of teams for the response will be comprised of trained nationals from the area, BGR said.
The crisis in Japan began April 14 when a magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit Kumamoto on the main southern island of Kyushu. Additional large tremors continued in the area through the weekend. The Japanese government mobilized 25,000 troops, where rescuers are facing harsh weather conditions.
A statement from BGR said the need for food, water, medical assistance, and shelter is being met by local authorities and non-governmental organizations in the affected areas. "BGR is monitoring the situation and will respond as needed and necessary," the statement said. "There doesn't seem to be a need for us to organize a major response at this time. We might respond through local partners, but we have no plans to mobilize."
About 200,000 people have fled their homes because of the damage caused by the Japan quake, news agencies reported. Earthquake experts believe dangerous aftershocks would continue to occur for more than a week.
This disaster in Japan caused relatively few deaths in comparison to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. That 9.0 magnitude quake killed 20,000 people when it struck 231 miles northeast of Tokyo. A subsequent tsunami with 30-foot waves claimed even more lives and damaged nuclear reactors in the area.
That disaster prompted a sustained response from Japanese Baptists, who were assisted by specially trained volunteers mobilized by Baptist Global Response and Southern Baptist missionaries living in the country.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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