SALT LAKE CITY — Aftershocks are nothing but smaller earthquakes, but whatever they are called, the earth hasn't stopped shaking in either Ecuador or Japan in the week since three large quakes struck in three short days.
The two countries are on opposite sides of the Pacific but within the "Ring of Fire," an earthquake-prone zone that continues to shift. Already, the quakes have killed nearly 600 people in Ecuador and 48 in Japan.
The death toll includes at least 11 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to an updated news release issued Thursday.
Southern Japan has suffered more than 680 aftershocks since a magnitude-6.5 earthquake on April 14 and another of magnitude 7.3 on Saturday. More than 10 percent of the aftershocks registered at magnitude 4 or above, including a magnitude 5.5 quake on Tuesday night.
Nearly 100,000 displaced people are in evacuation centers, Australia's ABC News reported.
Later Saturday, 9,000 miles away in Ecuador, a 7.8-magnitude quake struck. Nearly 1,700 people are still missing. A woman training to become a nun told the New York Times that during the initial quake, "It felt like we were in a blender."
Among dozens of aftershocks, one on Wednesday measured 6.1. Aftershocks can worsen existing damage and endanger survivors and relief workers trying to reach them in the rubble.
Two Australian professors said that though the quakes are in the Ring of Fire and happened within three days of each other, they occurred far enough apart to make it impossible that they are linked. Instead, they are the natural consequence of ongoing activity in the Pacific basin, the professors wrote for Scroll.in.
Two members of the LDS Church's Asia North Area visited the affected areas on Monday, the area president, Elder Scott D. Whiting, and first counselor, Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, both of whom are general authority Seventies.
"In cooperation with Salt Lake City church headquarters and local leaders, we have started to provide humanitarian assistance activities and relief supplies," the area presidency said in a letter released Thursday.
The area presidency provided instructions about relief efforts:
"As a church, it is most desirable to focus on support activities through priesthood leaders. People from non-affected areas should refrain from making their own inquiries of priesthood leaders in affected areas; that leads to confusion and could interfere with the relief work.
"We ask that individuals refrain from sending relief supplies to the Fukuoka Temple or church facilities until further direction is received."
The church's South America Northwest Area Presidency in Lima, Peru, has coordinated efforts to help Mormons and others in Ecuador. The LDS Church’s Welfare Department and Mormon Helping Hands program are helping to meet the physical and emotional needs of victims, according to a news release.
As previously reported, all Mormon missionaries serving in the Japan Fukuoka Mission and the five church missions in Ecuador are safe.
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