FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Residents in Fort Myers connected with a tragedy in South America Sunday, as they collected donations for the victims of a powerful earthquake.
Ecuador's government announced that the death toll has risen to nearly 700, with still more missing. President Rafael Correa has said the quake caused $3 billion in damage. Fort Myers residents with family ties to the country collected canned goods, water, medical supplies, and toiletries at Lakes Park to relieve some of the victims.
"A lot of people have lost their families, they have lost their jobs, they have lost their homes," said Andrea Saint-Pere, the coordinator of the drive. "I love my country and it's just sad to know that it was hit by this tremendous earthquake and obviously the people were not ready and economy wise it's going to take us quite a few years to recover from it."
Among those helping was Jamie Kafei. She was in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, when the disaster struck. "I felt it really strong, the movement was unbelievable and it lasted for three minutes," she said. "When it finished, we knew something really bad happened."
Kafei said the effects on residents in the country have been devastating, and she worries about her friends on the coast. "They are lacking food, water, and they are really having a bad moment. I would say that this is the worst moment for my country at this time."
However, Kafei and others said they are happy to see Fort Myers locals pitching in and are hoping their donations can provide at least a little bit of relief for those affected. Donations on Sunday were driven to Miami to the Ecuadorian Consulate. "People from here, the U.S., Fort Myers, people from other Hispanic countries have also come together and we're receiving great donations so it's greatly appreciated," said Saint-Pere.
The group collected items such as water, canned food, sheets, covers, sleeping bags, mosquito repellent, medical supplies and toiletries.
12,000 were injured and about 130 people are still missing as a result of the earthquake, however, first responders in the country have been able to rescue close to 200 people that were trapped in the disaster.
The group's main collection center is at the McGregor Baptist Church, located at 3750 Colonial Boulevard. They said they have received plenty of clothes and shoes, but are still in need of canned food, water and medical supplies. Anyone interested in donating can take items there for the next 15 days.