Jan 16, 2010

Epiphany and earthquakes

Adoration of the Wise Men by MurilloImage via Wikipedia

Happy New Year and a blessed Epiphany season to everyone! We celebrated the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem with a brief service of prayer on Wednesday, January 6. The group was comprised mainly of Luz Maria's family. We sang a beautiful Spanish Epiphany hymn:

Tras hermoso lucero, tres magos viajaban, pensando a palacio llegar;
Y llevaban regalos preciosos al Rey que deseaban a venir a adorar;
Al llegar a Belén, ¡Ved que bella!
Al llegar a Belén, ¡Ved la estrella!
Con su luz alumbrabra un establo y allí,
En el heno dormía el gran Rey.

Behind the beautiful bright star, travelled three Magi, thinking to a palace they'd go;
Bringing precious gifts for the King they would adore;
When they came to Bethlehem, Look, how lovely!
When they came to Bethlehem, Look, the star!
With its light shone on a stable and there,
In the hay slept the great King.

Feeling the earth move

Here, as in the United States, there is a great deal of concern about the victims of the Haitian earthquake. The Lutheran Church of Venezuela is collecting food, medical and other supplies to send to Haiti. Earthquakes are nothing new here.

In fact, an earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale struck the coastal resort town of Carupano, Venezuela, on January 15, 2009. Fortunately, no one was injured and there was no property damage. Carupano is home to more than 120,000 people and is located in the eastern Venezuelan state of Sucre.

Cumaná, the capital of Sucre, was established by Franciscan monks in 1521, and is believed to be one of the oldest existing European settlements in the New World. However, Cumaná was leveled by an earthquake for the first time in 1530 and several times thereafter. So the oldest architecture in the city dates only from late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Caracas, the national capital, last suffered an earthquake this past fall, on September 12, 2009. That quake measure 6.4 on the Richter scale, but only seven people were injured and some houses made of mud and straw collapsed. The personal injuries mainly were the result of people panicking and stampeding out of a shopping mall.

The last really damaging earthquake in Caracas occurred on July 29, 1967, and was centered near the coast about 30 miles west of Caracas, with a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale. When the earth stopped shaking, about 240 residents of the capital city were dead and hundreds injured and buried in the rubble where homes and offices once stood. Over $100 million property damage was incurred in the Caracas area and about 80,000 persons were left homeless. Maracay, about 50 miles west of Caracas, reported five deaths and 100 injuries. Several additional towns reported structural damage.

The 1812 Maundy Thursday earthquake struck Caracas on March 26 of that year and measured 7.7 on the Richter magnitude scale. It caused extensive damage in Caracas, La Guaira, Barquisimeto, San Felipe, and Mérida. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people perished and the property damage was incalculable. The first international assistance received by Venezuela in response to the earthquake came from the United States, when the U.S. Congress unanimously approved the sending of five ships loaded with flour.

Perhaps the most damaging earthquake in western Venezuela was the Earthquake of Cúcuta, also known as Earthquake of the Andes, which occurred on May 18, 1875. It completely demolished Cúcuta, Villa del Rosario (Colombia), San Antonio del Tachira and Capacho (Venezuela). The earthquake killed many Venezuelans in San Cristóbal, La Mulata, Rubio, Michelena, La Grita, Colón, amongst others, and was felt in both Bogotá and Caracas.
Hydroelectric turbines

Lights out across Venezuela

Earthquakes may be part of Venezuela's history, but of more immediate concern to most Venezuelans right now is the country's continuing energy crisis. The essential problem is that more than 70 percent of all the electricity in Venezuela is produced by the Guri Dam hydroelectric plant on the Orinoco River, the second- or third-largest hydroelectric complex in the world. An extended drought is making it diffiOur generatorcult for the Guri Dam facility to keep up with Venezuela's increasing demand for electricity, and other avaible powerplants only have the capacity to supply about 20 percent of the country's needs. The government has formally imposed rationing of electricity on the entire country, which for us means the power outages occur at more predictable intervals and for no more than three hours at a time. However, we do have our backup generator in place now.

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