A 7.8 earthquake shook the coast of Ecuador on Saturday, leaving at least 272 people dead and more than 2500 wounded in one of the strongest quakes in decades to strike this country perched on the northwestern shoulder of South America.
The earthquake devastated coastal areas nearest the epicenter, including the cities of Manta, Portoviejo, and Pedernales, a major tourist destination, but damage was widespread throughout the country. Members of the Jewish community, mainly located in the cities of Quito and Guayaquil, have galvanized efforts to send much-needed supplies to thousands of people who lost everything in the course of minutes.
“We immediately went to the grocery and began buying foodstuffs to send,” says Rabbi Uriel Tawil, director of Chabad of Ecuador, who serves the nation’s Jewish community of approximately 1,000 people. “Even though it is far from where the Jewish people live in Guayaquil – and far from where a Jewish tourist may even visit – we know that it is at times like these where everyone must do whatever he or she can to help others in dire need.”
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has also begun assessing needs and coordinating relief efforts with both the Jewish community of Ecuador and long-standing partner Heart to Heart International focusing on medical care, medical supply provision, and water purification efforts.
IsraAID and the Japan emergency response team (JISP) arrived over the weekend in Kumamoto city, the worst affected area, in Southern Japan.
“The devastation is beyond words and tens of thousands of people are taking shelter in the more then 600 evacuation centers.” says Yotam Polizer IsraAIDs Asia Director.
Currently most of the stores are empty of food, water and non food items. The IsraAID/JISP team is distributing much needed supplies to those affected. Simultaneously, IsraAID and JISP are providing psychological first aid to the victims, mainly children and women who are suffering from stress and anxiety.
Also supporting emergency efforts in Japan is the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) who made a $25,000 grant for emergency supplies to the humanitarian agency “JEN,” JDC’s longtime local partner, for both food and non-perishable items.
Japan photos courtesy IsraAID