For many years, the City of Bahía de Caráquez (Manabí province) was a tranquil spot to live in Ecuador. If you look on a map, you can see that is quite remote, on a peninsula on the side of a mountain. There is only one main road to get there from the rest of the country.
Ecuador is a country that is special to the Dehonians. It was the site of our first foreign mission established in 1887. Ecuador had special significance for Fr. Dehon because it was the first country to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart.
The main industry in the City was tourism. With scenic views of the ocean nestled against the mountain, it was a draw throughout South America for its beautiful beaches. The Priests of the Sacred Heart have two parishes and sixteen chapels in the area. It also has a little school for disabled children.
But that all changed on a Saturday evening on April 26, 2016 when a massive earthquake devasted the entire area. It was measured to be a major earthquake of 7.8 on the Richter scale.
In an area that had not had any earthquake activity in two decades, this was the first of many more to follow.
Recovery efforts were compromised because there is only one road into the town. The pavement had buckled in many areas and collapsed in large pieces. Needed supplies would have to wait.
Later that year in July, two more earthquakes struck the area measuring 5.5 and 4.6 along with many aftershocks. A fourth major earthquake measuring 6.0 struck again on December 3, 2017.
Many homes and business government buildings were destroyed. Power and water were out. Even major relief agency lost its building.
Sagrado Corazon Church sustained damage with cracked walls that would not allow it to be used for Mass, but it was stable enough to become a staging area for relief supplies. What was once was a place of worship became a storage facility for cement bags and diapers, cooking oil beds and mattresses, blankets and bottle water. The plaza in front of another Church, our Lady of Merced, has become a tent city.
Even though our buildings were damaged they were still standing and our priests and brothers immediately sprang into action. Fr. Bruno Roque dos Santos, SCJ is the superior of the religious community and pastor, regularly loads up a truck of supplies and personally delivers much-need items such as mattresses and bottled water to those persons who are unable to come to the Church to pick them up.
Through the efforts of our benefactors, we are helping to rebuild the City, one home at a time. Inexpensive, and very similar to other homes, these houses are earthquake resistant and have stood safely in the subsequent earthquakes. The cost for construction of just one home is $3,000.
The City will never be the same. It is estimated that over a thousand persons lost their lives in Manabí province. The exact number will never be known. But the spirit and the faith of the people of Bahai de Caráquez remains strong. It will take many years for the area to recover, but with the help of our donors, they are starting again thrive.
Let the Priests of the Sacred Heart pray for your loved ones and intentions.