St. Cecilia Parishioners Worry, Wait
According to news reports, the death toll had climbed to more than 540, with 1,500 people injured. It's feared those figures will rise in the coming days as rescue workers search the rubble for victims and survivors. The Peruvian National Civil Defense Institute said it had registered 16,600 families whose homes had been destroyed.
"Everybody (at St. Cecilia) is in shock and the news on every channel here is about the earthquake in Peru. It is very hard; most of us still have family members down there," Wilder Otayza, head of the brotherhood of The Lord of Miracles in Kearny, said.
Very Rev. Michael G. Ward, V.F., is the pastor of St. Cecilia, which is located at 120 Kearny Ave.
Unable to contact his family as of press time, Otayza said he has nephews and a sister-in law living in Lima. "The phone lines over there are down," he said. "I have been trying to contact their cell phones. The earthquake is still shaking. The government is trying to help everyone, but you cannot control the panic. Hopefully, the phones will start to work soon. I have to try something else to get a hold of them."
The brotherhood of the Lord of Miracles, which includes 100 members from the surrounding towns of East Newark and Harrison, is a religious community originally founded in Peru. The Lord of Miracles is the most popular religious icon in that country.
"I am trying to organize the rest of the brotherhood and speak to priests about a Mass for the Peruvian community," he said. "Faith is the one thing that is keeping us calm. Peruvians are very devout, religious people. We have hope. The last thing we can lose is our faith. This is nature, you cannot control it."
Immediately following the quake, many families in Peru were forced into the streets and parks for fear of further damage from a series of aftershocks. The U.S. Geological Survey reported 11 aftershocks that measured at least magnitude 5, including three measuring more than magnitude 6.
Most of the damage, deaths and injuries occurred in towns on the south coast nearest the quake's epicenter, particularly in Pisco, Ica and Chincha, where mud-brick adobe houses collapsed. At least 200 deaths were confirmed in Pisco, and there were reports of cadavers in the streets as families awaited ambulances or other emergency assistance.
Otayza is encouraging the community to work together in this trying time. "It is totally devastating to see the images from Peru. This is a special time for everyone to cooperate with and support our Peruvian brothers and sisters."
The earthquake is the strongest to strike Peru in more than 30 years. Earthquakes in the magnitude-8 range hit the country in 1908, 1966 and 1974. A less powerful quake in 1970, which triggered landslides in the central Andes, was estimated to have killed about 70,000 people. The last major quake, in 2001, measured 8.3 and caused deaths and serious damage in the southern highland city of Arequipa and on the coast, where waves swept houses away.
Located in western South America, Peru is about the size of Alaska. It borders the South Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by the countries of Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile. According to information on the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook Web site, The United States is Peru's largest international trading partner, accounting for 25 percent of exports and 21 percent of imports. Peru's major business sectors include agriculture, minerals and mining, fishing, textiles, petroleum and natural gas and steel.
(Editor's note: this article contains information provided by Catholic News Service.)