Catholic News Service photo
A woman walks with children amid debris around a home April 3 following an earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, April 2. The natural disaster did damage, triggered tsunami warnings and claimed at least six lives, but has b een much less destructive than previous earthquakes in the region. 
Catholic News Service photo
A woman walks with children amid debris around a home April 3 following an earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, April 2. The natural disaster did damage, triggered tsunami warnings and claimed at least six lives, but has b een much less destructive than previous earthquakes in the region. 
SANTIAGO, Chile — A spokeswoman for Caritas Chile said crews were ready to respond to a massive earthquake in the northern part of the country, but the situation and damage remained uncertain.

"We are working to collect information," said Ingrid Saavedra, director of communications for Caritas Chile. "We have dioceses in the North (of Chile), but we cannot contact them."

In a telegram April 2 to Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago, Pope Francis said he was saddened by the news of the earthquake, which left at least six people dead and others injured or homeless. The pope asked the cardinal to convey to all Chileans "my closeness and affection."

"I ask God to grant eternal rest to those who have died, give consolation to those suffering the effects of such a sad disaster and, at the same time, inspire in everyone sentiments of hope to face the adversity," the pope said.

"At the same time, I strongly urge Christian communities, civil institutions and people of good will, with a generous spirit and fraternal charity, to offer effective help at this painful moment to all those involved."

Caritas Chile began collecting money and materials for the victims of the magnitude-8.2 earthquake that struck offshore during the evening of April 1 and sent residents of coastal regions fleeing inland after a tsunami warning was issued.

The Chilean government said waves higher than 6 feet crashed ashore in some places, although the extent of the damage was still being determined April 2. The damage appeared less destructive than the magnitude-8.8 earthquake that struck in 2010.

The epicenter was 60 miles from the city of Iquique, near the border with Peru.

Past earthquakes have left Caritas Chile with "expertise" in dealing with disasters, Saavedra said, but crews have been unable to move due to a lack of information and the closure of the airport in Iquique.

"We need to know the real situation in the North," she said.

Bishop Guillermo Vera of Iquique, who was installed March 29, spent the  overnight hours visiting victims and local hospitals, the Chilean bishops' conference's press service reported.

"People ... are our first priority at this time," he said.