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Methodists respond to disasters in Mexico, Central America

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A Web-only UMNS file photo by Moises Vidal

Volunteers help evacuate survivors from flooded areas in El Salvador.
Nov. 15, 2005


By United Methodist News Service*

United Methodists are helping provide relief to hurricane-stricken areas of Central America and Mexico.

At the beginning of October, Hurricane Stan caused flooding and landslides in Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. In Guatemala alone, more than 1,500 people were dead or missing, and dozens of deaths were reported in the other four countries. The disaster also killed cattle and destroyed houses, roads and cultivated areas.

“Conscious of the situation in the affected areas of Chiapas, the Methodist Church of Mexico has opened its doors in many parts of the Federal District as storehouse centers,” said Bishop Moisés Valderrama, with the Methodist Church of Mexico. “These centers are receiving donations.”

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is helping the affected people through the Native Ecological Federation of Chiapas. The flood ruined the coffee crops, and UMCOR is working to reach the area with help.

In Guatemala, UMCOR has started a relief program in the disaster areas and is determining the best way to provide long-term help. United Methodist missionary Eunice Arias is working on site to evaluate the situation.

“The feelings of vulnerability, pain and fear overwhelm the people of Guatemala at this moment,” said Arias, with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. “The storm brought flooding, landslides and destruction to entire neighborhoods cutting roads and bridges. The cities haven’t been immune to the lack of electricity, water and communications.

“The people of the National Evangelical Methodist Church of Quetzaltenango have joined the community relief work and are looking for ways to provide housing,” she said.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A Web-only UMNS file photo by Moises Vidal

Bags of relief supplies are stored at a distribution center in Guatemala.
El Salvador was not only struck by Hurricane Stan but also by the Oct. 1 eruption of the Lamatepec (Father Hill) volcano, which had been dormant since 1904. The Lamatepec is the highest point in the country at 7,804 feet above sea level. The eruption killed at least two people and forced thousands of people to evacuate the zone. The ashes destroyed the coffee plantations.

“The volcano from Santa Ana, in the western part of the country, had a violent eruption, throwing ashes and incandescent rocks, which provoked the destruction of property and people in Ahuachapán, Santa Ana and Sonsonete,” said the Rev. Juan de Dios, a pastor in El Salvador. “Houses, streets, trees, vehicles — everything was covered with ashes.

“Many volunteers from the Methodist Church have reacted immediately to the emergency,” he said. “We went to the disaster area to help evacuate people to refugee sites, (such) as churches, schools, and stadiums. People are in need of food, water, clothes and medicines. The Methodist Clinic in Ahuachapán has been treating respiratory problems and skin burns.

“We give thanks to God because we have experienced the unity of the people of God and the love of Christ in so many volunteers that are providing humanitarian aid with the Methodist Church of El Salvador,” he said.

In El Salvador UMCOR is working with the Methodist Church of El Salvador and Action by Churches Together, the relief and development arm of the World Council of Churches. The United Methodist relief agency has provided grants for relief work in El Salvador, and Volunteers in Mission teams are also working on the recovery.

Contributions can be designated for “UMCOR Advance #501300, Central America Emergency,” and sent to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Donations also can be made by calling (800) 554-8583 or by going online to www.methodistrelief.org.

*This report was compiled by Humberto Casanova, associate editor of El Interprete magazine at United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Amanda Bachus, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5113; Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759; or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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