Evangelical Christians from the United States have sent disaster relief teams to Ecuador to assess the damages caused by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake. According to reports, the death toll has reached more than 500 people, and over 2,500 people are injured or missing. Officials said that this is the worst disaster the country has had in the last 30 years.
The Ecuadorian government has declared a state of emergency in six coastal provinces - Manabi, Santo Domingo, Guayas, Los Rios, Esmeraldas and Galapagos.
After the first quake struck on Saturday, hundreds of aftershocks continued to tremble the earth, the largest of which, measuring 6.8-magnitude, struck Wednesday just before dawn, which renewed the residents' fears and hindered the search and rescue teams' efforts to reach those possibly still trap under the collapsed buildings. Roads and freeways are heavily damaged since Ecuador has been experiencing heavy rain falls from the El Nino weather.
Baptist Global Response, one of the first responders in the incident, says its director is already assessing the situation on the ground with the help of local partners in Ecuador. They will determine how many relief teams should be deployed and where are the worst hit areas.
For the Samaritan's Purse, a North Carolina-based relief ministry led by Rev. Franklin Graham, a seven-staff team is making their way to the disaster zone to provide counseling support and assistance to the survivors.
"The earthquake in Ecuador last night has caused incredible destruction. We're responding so that we can show the people there the love of Christ and help relieve their suffering. Please keep them in your prayers," Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham said in a press release.
The relief ministry also states that the medical assistance and clean drinking water are much-needed in the area. The organization also says they are prepared to provide shelters for the survivors who lost their homes.
Days after the earthquake, many isolated communities struggled without water, power and transportation. In the coastal areas, stadiums became evacuation center and morgues. The delivery of relief goods is slow because of torn up roads, according to Reuters.
On a highway outside the town, some people held placards saying "food, please."
More than 10,000 soldiers and 4,600 police officers have been deployed to the affected areas. Volunteer groups set up mobile hospitals for the survivors. The troops have also brought in search dogs to locate survivors and bodies.
According to Defense Minister Patiño, they are expecting to see a rise in the death toll in the next few days. Also, he said it will take years before the country can recover from this catastrophe.
"We ask you to pray for the families who have lost it all, and even lost family members, may God give them peace and a new start", says Ester Hernández, according to Evangelical Focus. "In the midst of the chaos, may as many people as possible be rescued from under the rubble.