Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile are actively assisting in relief efforts and determining how the Church can be of most assistance in the wake of Saturday’s magnitude-8.8 earthquake. With over half a million Latter-day Saints living in the country, the Church has a substantial presence in Chile.

Initial relief efforts began immediately following Saturday’s temblor when Chilean church leaders authorized the release of food and water cached in bishops storehouses in and around Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city.

Additional supplies of food and water, as well as quantities of tents, blankets, hygiene kits and sleeping mats are expected to be shipped from Church facilities in neighboring countries and the USA. Church authorities in Chile are coodinating their efforts with the country’s Ministry of the Interior to determine what forms the Church’s ongoing assistance will take.

An estimated 2 million people reportedly have been affected by the quake, with some 500,000 homes suffering considerable damage. Dozens of aftershocks — some registering as high as 6.9 on the Richter scale — have continued to rumble through the country and rattle already-panicked Chileans.

Most Mormon meetinghouses in Chile escaped with little or no damage, although many are reportedly filled with dust. Three meetinghouses sustained extensive structural damage, one was severely flooded, and another meeting facility was swept away by the tsunami.

Contact has been made with all the missionaries serving in the nine LDS missions based in Chile. All are reported safe, with many having assisted in relief efforts since Saturday.

The missionaries who are unable to return to damaged, uninhabitable apartments are staying either with local members or in LDS meetinghouses.

Communications with and among local LDS leaders in the most affected areas of Chile have been limited and unreliable, with the best success being through text messages.