Bishop, Caritas staffer say situation in Mexico serious, much aid needed

IMAGE: CNS photo/Francisco Guasco, Reuters


(CNS) — A Catholic bishop and a Caritas worker in Mexico said the situation
was extremely serious after the Sept. 19 earthquake, and much aid would be

“The situation is complicated, because the first
earthquake (Sept. 7) had already affected thousands of people in Chiapas and
Oaxaca,” Alberto Arciniega, head of communications for Caritas Mexico, told Catholic News Service Sept. 20.
“The church is continuing to assist those dioceses, but with what happened
yesterday, the emergency situation is being re-evaluated to get a more exact
assessment of the aid that is needed.”

All the dioceses in Mexico were collecting food, water and
other necessities for victims of the quakes, said Arciniega. He said they were seeking
economic support from inside and outside the country.

“We know it is a serious situation, and international
aid is being requested,” Arciniega told Catholic News Service.

“Rehabilitation and reconstruction will take time and
will be expensive,” he added. “Thousands of people have been left
homeless, and many churches have been damaged.”

The magnitude 7.1 quake that hit Sept. 19 was not as strong
as the earlier magnitude 8.1 quake, but the second quake was centered in Puebla
state, just southeast of Mexico City, as opposed to in the Pacific Ocean. Arciniega
said Puebla and Morelos states and Mexico City were worst hit in the second quake.

shared audio of an interview with Bishop Ramon Castro Castro of Cuernavaca, in
Morelos state.

The bishop
reported “many deaths” and “many churches damaged.” He said
one colonial-era church collapsed but added, “Miraculously, the priests
escaped safely.”

Bishop Castro
said parishes in his diocese had been collecting items to send to victims of
the Sept. 7 earthquake in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Now those items — if they were not
destroyed in the Sept. 19 quake — will be used locally, the bishop said,
adding, “but it will not be enough.”

He said one priest was taken to the hospital with serious injuries after his
church collapsed; another was rescued from the rubble.

is a great deal of solidarity, thank God, but it is not enough. This is a
serious disaster,” Bishop Castro said.

Economic aid
is important for “people who have been left homeless, who have been left
with nothing, absolutely nothing.”

“I am on
my way now to visit the areas that have suffered the greatest damage, to try to
convey a message of encouragement and hope,” he said.

Arciniega was in Oaxaca when he spoke to CNS. He said the
Sept. 19 earthquake was felt there, but apparently did not cause damage.

“People (in the south) are worried that the assistance
will stop because the cameras and newscasts are focusing on Mexico City. There
is fear that the aid will stop and the emphasis will be on the center of the
country,” he said.

He added that it was raining in Tehuantepec, an area of
Oaxaca damaged in the first earthquake.

“That makes the housing situation more complicated. Not
only did people’s homes collapse, but now it’s raining, so people are in
shelters, they need food. They are setting up community kitchens. We are
continuing to evaluate how much the diocese can do to help itself and
requesting aid from other dioceses and from outside the country.”

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Contributing to this story was Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru.

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