CONCEPCION, Chile (BP)–Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers are on the ground in Chile, partnering with Chilean Baptists to address critical needs in two areas hit hard by the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the country Feb. 27.
A six-member team from the South Carolina Baptist Convention landed in Santiago March 9 and a second team plans to arrive March 15. Two teams from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are scheduled to arrive March 12.
The teams, which specialize in mass feeding operations, will set up kitchens capable of producing as many as 1,000 meals daily.
The South Carolina team began by purchasing equipment for two kitchens, using money provided by Southern Baptist hunger and relief funds, said Charles Clark, an International Mission Board missionary who serves as strategy leader for the part of South America that includes Chile.
The South Carolina and Texas feeding teams will train Chilean Baptist partners to run the kitchens and distribute meals themselves. The approach reflects an overall strategy of assisting Chilean Baptists as they develop and fine-tune their own disaster response mechanisms.
South Carolina Baptists also are preparing to send a planeload of medical equipment, said Cliff Satterwhite, director of disaster relief for the state convention. Five of the 13 hospitals in the quake region were destroyed and are in dire need of medical equipment and medication. The equipment, which is being donated by Southeastern Medical Supply, will be transported into Chile with the country’s military providing logistical support.
The relief effort in Chile is shaping up as an excellent example of Baptist cooperation, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization.
“It has been wonderful to see Southern Baptists cooperating on all levels. The state disaster relief teams from Texas and South Carolina have provided solid expertise in disaster relief. The in-country partners with the International Mission Board provided great leadership,” Palmer said. “But one of the best things was to see the partnership with Chilean Baptists, who will be there responding and ministering long after the outsiders are gone.”
The initial civil disturbances, like looting and violence, that broke out in the aftermath of the earthquake have been brought under control by the Chilean military and police, according to news services. An estimated 2 million people have been affected by the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that struck coastal villages. Between 500,000 and 1.5 million houses were destroyed and access to food, water and electricity remain critical needs.
The death toll from the disaster, however, has been reduced to 528, according to the reliefweb.int website. Apparently, the number of displaced people mistakenly was included in the death toll figure at one point.
In addition to the kitchen units, an initial disbursement of $150,000 from Southern Baptist relief funds has been used to purchase water, first-aid supplies and other relief materials for distribution in the quake zone, Clark said.
Another immediate need is emergency shelter, Clark said. “While some tents and tarps will be used for shelter, another option is a temporary pine-sided, tin-roofed, slatted-floor house that can be put together in a couple of hours,” he said. “The materials, labor and know-how are readily available locally. The cost is about $500 to $600 each to construct.”
The possibility of providing 500 to 600 of the shelters, using $300,000 in disaster relief funds, is being evaluated, Clark said.
Partnership with Chilean Baptist representatives has been crucial to assessing the need and launching the joint relief effort, Clark noted.
“We have been traveling with three representatives of the Chile Baptist Convention who have been instrumental in our contacts with local Baptist churches,” Clark said. “They are working on a number of different relief fronts, including food and basic needs distribution. El Sembrador Baptist Church of Talca has been generous to let us use their sanctuary as a dormitory, dining room and headquarters.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. For more information about the Chile relief effort, visit www.imb.org. Donations to Southern Baptist Chilean relief may be made at http://www.imb.org (click on the Chile quake response graphic). One hundred percent of each donation goes to meet human needs. Updated prayer requests can be viewed at imb.org/pray. Information also will be updated through Twitter at #QuakeResponse.