A powerful earthquake in Ecuador destroyed a local Seventh-day Adventist church where believers were worshipping on Sabbath evening, but no one was injured, church leaders said.
The South American country has declared a state of emergency after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck at 6:58 p.m. Saturday, killing at least 77 people and causing widespread destruction. At least four Adventist churches were destroyed.
Church members were meeting in one of the churches, the Palmitas Seventh-day Adventist Church in the coastal city of Pedernales, when the earthquake rocked the region, said Giovanny Izquierdo, president of Adventist Church in Ecuador.
“Church members were in the church at the exact moment when the earthquake occurred and they immediately fled outside,” Izquierdo said in a WhatsApp text message.
The church building collapsed shortly afterward. The church has 80 members.
“Many buildings have fallen and the Palmitas church is completely destroyed,” the church’s pastor, Washington Guaranga, said in a separate WhatsApp message.
The WhatsApp messages were sent to Samuel Saito, director of the Adventist Church-operated Nuevo Tiempo (Hope) radio network in Ecuador, and viewed by the Adventist Review.
Ecuador’s authorities said about 600 people were injured in the earthquake, the country’s largest since 1979. They cautioned that the number of injured and dead could grow as more information emerges.
Details about the other three destroyed Adventist churches were not immediately available.
No Adventists died in the tragedy, Izquierdo said.
“We haven’t experience the loss of any church members in the middle of this tragedy, only material damages,” he said on Twitter. “Thank you for praying for us.”
In Pedernales, a city of about 46,000 people located 165 miles (270 kilometers) west of the capital, Quito, church members rushed to set up donation centers to collect food and clothing for those affected by the earthquake. The 600 local church members were working closely with ADRA, said Felipe Lemos, director of the press office for the Adventist Church’s South American Division, whose territory includes Ecuador.
“Adventist members in Pedernales are establishing centers to collect food and clothing in every district for distribution to places in need,” Lemos said. “Let’s remember the people of Ecuador in prayer.”