Consecutive earthquakes may test charitable spirit of Floridians

Julia Gallegos, left, and Telia Maturana spent Sunday night outside their destroyed houses in Talca, south of Santiago, amid strong aftershocks.

New York Times

Julia Gallegos, left, and Telia Maturana spent Sunday night outside their destroyed houses in Talca, south of Santiago, amid strong aftershocks.

First, Haiti. Now, Chile.

Two earthquakes in two months in our hemisphere.

This latest disaster may test the charitable spirit of Floridians. Still reeling from a sluggish economy, many nonetheless gave willingly only weeks ago when Haiti was devastated by a major quake.

Will compassion fatigue be a problem this time around?

"There are some donors who probably can't give now because they gave to Haiti," American Red Cross spokesman Eric Porterfield told the St. Petersburg Times. "But other people will see that the need is great, and they'll be willing to give."

He recalled other times when one disaster followed another, such as two weeks in May 2008 when a tropical cyclone killed nearly 140,000 in Myanmar and an earthquake killed nearly 70,000 in China. "We still had an outpouring of generosity from the American public," he said.

Relief agencies like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Save the Children have just begun to ramp up fundraising for Chile after Saturday's earthquake.

In addition to texting HAITI from your cell phone to chip in $10, you can now text CHILE to various charities.

Still, a few weeks after a huge outpouring of generosity for Haiti, it remains to be seen if images of toppled buildings in Chile will prompt Americans to open their wallets one more time.

Relief experts note that the two disasters — and the two countries — are very different.

Chile's death toll climbed Sunday to more than 700, and the country is struggling with civil order and aftershocks. But it is one of the wealthiest, most stable Latin American nations.

In contrast, the Jan. 12 quake in poverty-stricken Haiti killed roughly 220,000 as flimsy buildings collapsed.

The American Red Cross, which raised more than $250 million for Haitian recovery efforts, has committed an initial $50,000 to Chile relief.

"At this time, we are not soliciting for any donations specifically for Chile," said Janet McGuire, disaster communications officer for the Red Cross' Tampa Bay chapter. "The Chilean Red Cross is assessing what needs they have."

And though Haiti has receded from the headlines, more than a million Haitians are homeless and relief operations there will continue for years.

"It's a desperate situation," McGuire said. "The magnitude of loss in Haiti is overwhelming."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

fast facts

How to help

These organizations are among those sending food, water, medical supplies and humanitarian aid to Chile:

American Red Cross: toll-free 1-800-733-2767 or redcross.org

Habitat for Humanity:

1-800-422-4828 or

habitat.org

Salvation Army:

1-800-725-2769 or

salvationarmy.org

Save the Children:

1-800-728-3843 or savethechildren.org

To text donations for aid to Chile

•Text CHILE to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross.

• Text CHILE to 23583 to donate $10 to Habitat for Humanity.

• Text CHILE to 52000 to donate $10 to the Salvation Army.

Consecutive earthquakes may test charitable spirit of Floridians 02/28/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 28, 2010 11:23pm]

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